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Busy As Bees

Talking to Alicia Holloway, getting ready to speak at the WIBA Womens Leadership Alliance meeting.

Wow, this time of year is busy! School wrapping up, finals, graduations, trying to figure out what to do with the children this summer, getting ready for vacations, yard work, home improvements, volunteer commitments, home improvements, ramped up job responsibilities, and everything else that comes up this time of year… Whew! And that’s on top of the general day-to-day stuff that keeps us busy enough to start with. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. It is a bit overwhelming. (Check out this blog for tips for how to manage overwhelm.)

While I don’t have children, I am working on giving life to my new project – taking the Finishing School online – and that’s keeping me plenty busy. You may have noticed, but I didn’t make my spring deadline. I got stuck for a minute, and just had to cut myself some slack. I’m a pretty driven person, but I’ve learned this year that drive just isn’t enough. There are perimeters in life that will not be ignored. For example: it is not sustainable to work 12 hours days, six days a week, for several months on end, and not crash and burn. Toughing it through, no longer becomes an option, and something has to simmer on the back burner for a while.

Giving myself permission to stop pressuring myself over self-imposed deadlines was just what I needed. Since then I’ve been able to get unstuck. I’ve figured out the technical questions I had about how to put the classes online, thanks to my Webmistress. I’ve gone to some video geek friends for how to make decent quality videos. Next, I need to stop the analysis paralysis and just make some videos for Pete’s sake! I’ve given myself a much easier timeline, considering everything else I have going on, but I’m not going to announce it – until I’ve made more progress. This takes a bit of the stress off, since I’ll only have myself to answer to. I know myself well to know that I have to set goals with timelines, or I’ll never get them done.

Isn’t it interesting that so much of the stress we feel, is because of the expectations we put on ourselves? I’m all about having high expectations, just not unreasonable ones. We are so hard on ourselves, comparing what we do and who we are to unreal standards no one could ever meet. We tell ourselves we’re working ourselves into a frazzle to make the people around us happy, but is that really true? Or is it just what we think we “should” do, to be a good mother/wife/ daughter/ woman?

In the Ask a Man panel discussions we’ve had at the Finishing School for Modern Women, a lesson that came up again and again, is that women try too hard. Most men are pretty simple by nature, and don’t need a lot to make them happy. Yet we do so much, without even checking to see if what we’re doing for someone else really matters to them. In trying to anticipate the every need of those we love, we go above and beyond the call of duty, running ourselves ragged, doing tasks that truly only matter to us. Have you seen this in others? Can you recognize it in yourself? It’s exhausting to please other people all the time.

The best way to pull ourselves out of the trap focusing on others, is to put our focus on the present moment. The idea of being mindful -- being present and more conscious of life as it happens – seems like a crazy idea when we’re so focused on what we’re working on to achieve our goals in the future. But by practicing living in the present moment, we give our families, friends and the other people in lives what they really want – just our presence in the present.

Here are some tips for making that happen:

Do one thing at a time.

Single-task, don't multi-task. When you're pouring water, just pour water. When you're eating, just eat. When you're checking email, just check email. Studies show it takes much more to multi-task, then it does to do one thing at a time.

Do it slowly and deliberately.

Don’t rush through life. Instead, take your time, and move slowly. Make your actions deliberate, not rushed and random. It takes practice, but it helps you focus on the task.

Do less.

If you do less, you can do those things more slowly, more completely and with more concentration. If you fill your day with tasks, you’ll be rushing from one thing to the next without stopping to think about what you do. But you're busy and you can't possibly do less, right? You can. It's a matter of figuring out what's important, and letting go of what's not.

Put space between things.

Don't schedule things close together -- instead, leave room between things on your schedule. That gives you a more relaxed schedule, and leaves space in case one task takes longer than you planned.

Spend at least 5 minutes each day doing nothing.

Just sit in silence. Become aware of your thoughts. Focus on your breathing. Notice the world around you. Become comfortable with the silence and stillness. It'll do you a world of good -- and just takes 5 minutes!

Stop worrying about the future -- focus on the present.

Become more aware of your thinking -- are you constantly worrying about the future? Learn to recognize when you're doing this, and then practice bringing yourself back to the present. Just focus on what you're doing, right now. Enjoy the present moment.

When you're talking to someone, be present.

How many of us have spent time with someone but have been thinking about what we need to do next? Or thinking about what we want to say next, instead of really listening to that person? Instead, focus on being present, on really listening, on really enjoying your time with that person. It is the nicest thing you can do for someone, especially your children.

Eat slowly and savor your food.

Food can be crammed down our throats in a rush, but where's the joy in that? Savor each bite, slowly, and really get the most out of your food. Interestingly, you'll eat less this way, and digest your food better too.

Live slowly and savor your life.

Just as you savor food by eating it more slowly, do everything this way -- slow down and savor each and every moment. Tune into the sights, sounds, and smells and awaken your senses to the world around you.

Be gentle with yourself.

Being present takes practice. Don’t be hard on yourself if it takes a minute to get better at it. Just pick one thing to work on first, then practice until you’re gotten better at it and pick a new thing to work on.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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