I remember once when my daughter was little, I was burning the candle at both ends. I was lucky if I got four hours of sleep each night, rising before everyone else to have a writing time in the peace and quiet, and staying up until the wee hours in order to complete all projects on time. She came into the room and said “Mommy would you play with me?” And in standard, busy-person language, I grunted, “not now I’m busy.” She left, dejected, and went off to play by herself.
Too often we don’t see in ourselves what is easily spotted in others.
Not long after this incidence, I was at a friend’s house working. Her son played quietly in the next room. An hour into the project, he entered the room and asked in his tiny voice, “Mommy, can you help me with this?”
It was her response that changed me. “Sure”, she said, and she took him by the hand and spent 10 minutes helping him build with his Legos. She got him interested in a storyline, and before too long we had another chunk of uninterrupted project time, while he happily played by himself.
I took heart in that experience. I also changed my ways.
I’ve learned to prioritize what’s truly important, and make the time for things that matter most. We can never get a moment of time back. So it’s up to us to prioritize each breath, each moment, and make sure we are doing the best of everything.
Skip What Doesn’t Matter
I haven’t read a true newspaper, with all the front page headlines and “top” stories in years. I haven’t watched the news on television in even longer. Honestly, I don’t even have a television in which I could watch it. We have Netflix and Amazon for movies and shows that we watch on occasion, the rest doesn’t matter. I never click to a news site for front page news, and only end up reading the sections that truly matter to my life, like the healthy living sections on Huffington Post for instance.
If it’s truly newsworthy, something that matters in my life, I’ll hear about it anyway. You can’t NOT hear things when you pull up your email on Yahoo, or read what’s happening on Twitter. People talk and you’re going to hear about the largest events rippling throughout the world. Other than that, it doesn’t matter. Do I really need to know what political candidates are bullying each other about? Do I really need to know who’s shooting who? Nope. And I choose not to let it in. Because maybe we wouldn’t be bullying each other or shooting each other if it wasn’t in the forefront of our minds every day.
Choose For Your Future
A few months ago I attended a networking event because, in theory, it sounded like a good place to meet people and potentially get business. It was a group of women in the tech industry, and with over 100 signups, it promised to have lots of attendees. I went (first mistake) because it was a large group of women. I chatted with several attendees and quickly discovered my error. They were all millennials with a few gen Xers and baby boomers thrown in, all heavily pursuing the corporate lifestyle. They wanted to climb the corporate ladder, not figure out how to live out their passion as entrepreneurs.
This if fairly indicative of how we approach our time every day. We look for the biggest bang, instead of focusing in on what truly matters. Sure, I wanted to get to know people in the area. And a large group of women seemed like the ideal place to connect with a few. But I focused in on the big picture – lots of people for an immediate response – rather than looking at how it would benefit me in the long run.
A short while after that, I found another group with six people going. It was a group focused around non-fiction writing. I walked in and instantly felt like I was at home. I resonated with the people. We had common interests from the beginning. I knew it would help me with my goals and aspirations for the long term, not just for something I needed in the now.
Lesson learned: only do things that can take you where you truly have the desire to be. You can never get there with short sighted goals and plans.
I make all kinds of lists every day. When I put something on a list, it allows me to free up my thinking because I have the idea down on paper, and it allows me to give it some type of priority.
Here’s the thing. When it’s on a list, I typically find if it’s a great idea, I wind up using it and doing something with it immediately. If it’s not, it sits there day after day, being transferred from list to list until I finally let it slip away.
Yet by having it on a list, it gives the idea power. It allows me to think about it over and over again. It allows me to attack it from different angles, and attempt to build it into my life in different ways. And if it can truly help me – in either business or personal – it will eventually take priority and become a part of my daily to do’s.
I’m not saying create a to-do list a mile long. Instead, I’m saying create all kinds of lists to free your mind and allow different opportunities to wander from day to day. My “list for someday” is filled with all kinds of ideas and opportunities; you never know where they might lead.
Never Excuse Yourself From Experiences
It’s easy to get in your comfort zone and never stray. It’s much more difficult to say “yes” to new opportunities every day. They can be as simple as trying a new restaurant, or as difficult as moving half way around the globe for a new job. But in all cases, saying “yes” allows you to become someone you might not have been in any other circumstance.
I live in a community that offers a free concert in the park every Sunday night. We pack a picnic dinner and head up to the park to claim our space a few minutes before it starts. This past Sunday was cooler, a little cloudier, and we weren’t all that excited about the content. We judged it solely on the band name and a genre … harmonica. Not that exciting. But we went anyway. WOW. It was one of the best concerts of the year! This guy was phenomenal. With a couple of songs, I felt like I was in Paris – absolutely amazing what he did with a harmonica!
Did I expect that? Nope, not at all. Just the art of doing things “because the opportunity is there” can have immediate impact. I opened up my world to a genre of music I never knew I would appreciate as much as I now do. His music inspires me, and will continue to inspire me for years to come.
From small to big, it’s not important how large the opportunity is, only that you say “yes” and experience new things all the time. It allows pieces to come together in your mind that may not have connected in any other manner.
Live In The Now
What’s the most important thing I can do … right now? Is it spending time talking to a friend? Listening to a story my daughter has to share? Getting an important project off of my to do list? Helping a client with a problem?
Whatever it is, I’ve discovered that by giving it my all, I get more done in the process. Whoever said multi-tasking worked didn’t try single-tasking. I can easily spend several hours or more writing a blog post when I have email dinging, Twitter beeping, the phone buzzing, and people interrupting. But if I close myself into my office space, turn off all distractions, and sit down to complete a message, I can create it at warp speed. Clarity. Focus. Undistracted thoughts.
And it’s not just with work, it’s with everything I do. Undivided attention on whatever or whoever is in front of me means I give more. (And I get more too!)
Win – win! All the way around.
What do you do to stay present and focused?