Last summer, I had a revelation about clarity. I was sitting on a floating dock watching an osprey fly to and from her nest, bringing back sticks and twigs…and fish. My feet were dipped ankle-deep in the water and I was about as relaxed as I’d ever been.
When I wasn’t watching the osprey go about her business, I was watching the water. It was virtually still, save the surface ripples that rode the tail of the soft bay breezes.
The more I watched, the more I saw. My concentration moved from the surface ripples to my toes moving slowly back and forth. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before the critters in and on the water came into focus, bustling about their daily lives. And the plants. The ones that thrive in the watery depth, along with those rooted in the land, but reflected in the glossy sheen.
It occurred to me that this kind of heightened observation and study is only possible when the water is calm. If it had been choppy or stormy, close inspection would have been futile and other priorities would certainly have prevailed.
The parallel with life and our myriad obligations became apparent almost instantly. We tend to spend a great deal of time and effort solving problems and overcoming obstacles. But, I often wonder if we would make the same choices if we could see deeper and more clearly into our busy schedules.
And, is it possible to create the conditions for introspection in our lives, despite the daily churn of commitments, events, and responsibilities?
Getting Clarity Helps You Solve the Right Problem
The trouble with bouncing from problem to problem is the reactive nature of the process. We find ourselves constantly putting effort into balancing and rebalancing our boat without adequately investigating what’s causing it to tilt and wobble in the first place.
When it comes to calming our calendars and balancing our days, it’s imperative that we take the time to identify the right problem and the contributing factors so that what we choose to do next, has a meaningful impact that’s long-lasting and sustainable.
Not Enough Time
If your first response to that thought was “I don’t have time for that,” you’re in the right place.
You probably don’t have enough time, which is exactly why eating this particular time management veggie is so important.
Spending a relatively small portion of your time on objective evaluation of what takes up your time gives you vital information that amplifies the effects of your next steps.
Creating the Conditions for Calm Waters
In nature, calm waters are the whim of Mother Nature. Fortunately, in our lives we have much more control and can take steps to actively create the conditions for calm reflection.
Here are three steps to get you started.
1. Make an Appointment…with Yourself Taking stock of your schedule will not happen by accident so take the proactive step of carving out a block of time to do the work. Whatever block of time works for you, mark it down on your calendar, promptly add 50% (I guarantee you underestimated), and quietly commit to yourself. Make a conscious effort to step away from the daily churn and devote your full focus to improving your well being.
*Motivational Add-On: Do this practice somewhere enjoyable or pair it with something you love, like a favorite drink, a comfy chair, or your fluffiest pair of sweats.
2. Take an Honest Look at Where Your Time Goes As your looking through the past few months on your calendar or thinking through recent commitments, make an attempt to sort them into categories. Which things rise to the top that you would absolutely do again tomorrow if needed because they are vital to your most beneficial work, life, rest, play combination? Which ones would you seek out again? Which ones would you prefer to avoid? Were there any to which you said “yes,” when you really wanted to say “no” or “yes, but later?” This is time well spent so be patient and give it your full attention. See the obvious and then look closer for the patterns that are just under the surface.
*Motivational Add-On: Use tasty treats (colored candies, tea packets, rainbow crackers) to organize your categories. Assign a color/variety to each of the questions above and discover a delicious, albeit potentially calorie-rich, way to visually represent your commitments. See which treat takes up the most space in your world and where you could make adjustments.
3. Start with Small Changes Now that you can really see what’s happening with your schedule, begin to make one, maybe two changes that elevate your most important priorities. Avoid the siren song of making sweeping changes and trying to overhaul your entire schedule at once. You created the space to think through what you value most, now honor that by choosing small adjustments that make more room for those things, giving them space to flourish.
*Motivational Add-On: Write your most important “change” on several sticky notes. Then add your “why.” Seeing this intention repeated throughout your day in a variety of places keeps your inspiration front and center, helping to build strong roots for your new habit.
Resilience for Choppier Times
One of the many benefits of consciously working with your schedule during moments of calm, is practice. You wouldn’t go paddling for the first time in torrential rains, you’d practice in plenty of calm situations so that your skills would be honed should you need to reply on them in a storm.
The same goes for scheduling ourselves. Create the conditions for calm so you can get clear on your priorities, practice safeguarding them, and develop habits for a healthy balance of time and tasks. This way, when the storm of urgency comes – and it most definitely will – you’ll be able to summon the feeling of calm, be confident in your boundaries, and make the choices that help you weather even the choppiest of waters with your boat safely balanced.