Category Archives: time

A Brief Lull? Use It!

I was inspired by a couple of blogs on what to do during boring meetings or conference calls. I agree with the writer that if you don’t need to be there, you don’t need to be there. Solve that.

Even in worthwhile, non-boring meetings there are lulls. At a conference, waiting for a talk to begin. A break between phone meetings. The time to sit and think while taking a bus, train, or plane. An alternative to fretting while waiting for that slow download.

The BNET blogger, Laura Vanderkam, got me started with one of her suggestions for a meeting: “Look around the room and think of one genuinely positive thought about each of the participants.” I like that one. You will feel better and you can bet you will have better rapport in your interactions.

You are an energy source. You can take that moment of lull to be aware of the energy you are holding. If it is not what you want to feel or share, take the moment to breathe, listen to your inner dialogue and notice your mental images.

Ask what is needed to shift your mindset. Maybe what will come up is a problem to solve or an irritant you can re-frame or address. There may not be an immediate answer. At least you can label and file it for creative solutions later. Then free your mind to be in the present.

It’s true that changing the inner conversation produces a change in results. Nonetheless, I sometimes find I can’t get much change working at the level of my conscious internal dialogue.

In moments of quiet I may be able to pick up the smaller voice, the little nag or self-criticism that is so familiar I don’t even notice it. Catching that thought during a lull in what I’m doing can lead to a hidden treasure in the form of old programming that I am ready to release. Later I can take time to journal or reflect or counsel with someone to help me let go of the deeper self-sabotage altogether.

Here are a few other handy fallback thoughts for when there’s a lull.

Gratitude List. What am I grateful for today? Right now?

Top Priority. What is my main focus in work or personal life? Keep it in mind in random moments.

Messages to send. To whom do I want to send good wishes, a thank you, just a thought?

Intuition. Open to the sense of knowing, receptive to a deeper awareness. What idea or wisdom comes in as a thought or image? Maybe jot it down or ask further questions and let answers arise.

And the best of all: just breathe and be present. Enjoy being alive in this moment. Put attention on what you are experiencing with all your senses. Hush the voice that says you should be doing something more “productive.”

A brief lull gives us a chance to remember that, as a favorite prayer says, “In this moment, all of my needs are met.” Ahhhhh.

Now and the Future

It’s easy to see that what we do today is creating our future. How else will we get where we want to go?

Since the only time we can take action is now, everything is really about the immediate moment.

We can take action in the present and have a sense, however clear or hazy, of where we want to go. The more we sense that today’s actions are leading toward a future we want, the more creative and productive we feel.

Radio host and psychic Hollis Polk recently pointed out a useful distinction in thinking about the present and the future. She said that sometimes we have a long-term goal that conflicts with our short-term reality. There may be times that NOT taking a step is a better choice, when other priorities are more important.

Wow. Do you, like me, criticize yourself for not achieving all your goals at once? I value my strategy of taking small steps toward major goals, and being consistent, so that I will reach the end. I have been revising our book, Smart Work, it seems for a long time now.

The most recent step has been to ask for feedback from readers. While that happens, I am not working on the book as consistently as I was. In the short term, this allows me to get some other projects under way. It also gives me a chance to return to editing the book with new perspective. I hope the product will be much improved.

With Hollis’s suggestion of separating the long-term goal and the immediate priorities, it’s easier to hush the internal nagging. In the bigger picture, progress is being made.

There are plenty of things I can do today that also lead to my long-term goals. One of them is to bring more clarity to what else I want to have in play when the book comes out.

Most readers of this column will recognize that inner push to achieve that can get us overly focused on a particular outcome. Even if I am not procrastinating, there is more to do than I have time for. It can feel like constant pressure. None of my tasks is more fun or comes out better because I am under pressure.

If I stop to breathe, feel gratitude in the present moment, and reflect on the bigger picture of who I am and what I want to do, I am getting somewhere too.

Remember that the connection between the short-term and the long-term does not have to be linear.
Enjoy your summer!

Nothing Substitutes for Attention

Attention is the essence of who we are, the elixir of communicating with others.

There’s an old saying that “The master’s gaze fattens the flock.” Our full attention to what we are doing and the people around us fattens the flock of our dreams. Especially now, with distractions pulling at us constantly, we are challenged to focus our attention on our priorities.

Hurrying and overload both diminish the quality of attention we can pay to both people and details.

The wastefulness of hurrying was underscored last week as I exchanged email messages about a business transaction. Some of the details came through garbled. I asked for clarification. Rather than reading her own email to see what I was asking, the sender sent me an explanatory attachment which did not at all clear up the garble. It took us three more exchanges plus apologies and extra phone messages before we backed out of that minor mis-communication. Nothing substitutes for actually looking at the details.

Hurrying leads to such things as sending on an email message without changing the subject line, hitting ‘reply all’ to avoid choosing the relevant recipients, jumping to conclusions rather than listening. Then we have to hurry even more to undo all those extra steps.

Overload makes it hard to focus and keep track of what is important to us. It’s good to remind ourselves that giving attention to too many things means we are giving full attention to nothing. If we have been on the run too long, we can get locked into overdrive. Those around us never receive that long loving look or deep listening from someone they trust. We don’t tap into our deeper resources for ourselves either. Nothing substitutes for attention to people.

Sometimes we get stuck, whether in overdrive, or in obsessing about something in the past or future that we cannot influence in this moment.

Even when we think there is no time, it is helpful to step out of the rush, shake loose from demands, worries, and trivia, and take an inventory of where our attention is. Come into the present, feel your physical self, take a breath, clear your mind.

Discover again what matters, and put your full attention there. With attention, time is well spent.