On time and space (a non-sci-fi discussion)
It gets crowded in life. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, freelancer, business owner, parent, artist, partner, etc, etc..all our various roles come with responsibilities and expectations and to-do lists and chores and goals and deadlines that - after a while - start to pile up. And that mountain (or molehill) eventually starts to make it very difficult to figure out which way to go, and how. All of these things can really begin to feel claustrophobic and suffocating, and I believe they can become a barrier to success and growth. I don’t believe the answer is ignoring or denying them, and I don’t think there’s any point running away from them. But I do think that when you start to feel like you don’t know which thing to do first, or feel like you just can’t get everything done in the time you have, that is EXACTLY when the best thing you can do is to give yourself space.
Wood, trees and horizons.
What do I mean by space? Well, to start with I am not necessarily referring to physical space. Sure, actually going for a walk in nature, or sitting on a beach or mountain top will without doubt help you feel better and less overwhelmed - but I am talking about giving ourselves mental space.
Defining my own criteria for success in my life means that I have to keep re-affirming and re-evaluating the I am indeed working towards things that are really important to me, and that help me shape the kind of life I ultimately want to live. It’s so easy to start taking on more and more things to do or achieve. Every day we read about new ways to better your life, be more productive, automate your business, change your habits, improve your mindset, hack your fitness regime, beat the algorithm, get better engagement, host the perfect webinar, bake the ultimate cheesecake….you get the picture. And if you are anything like me it’s very easy to start thinking you have to do all the things - because you want a better, more fulfilling, more successful life and business. I mean, that makes sense - who doesn’t, right?
The problem is, without taking time and pace to align with your priorities, and making sure those ‘things’ are helping create YOUR idea of success, all those concepts just become mind and soul clutter. And like any clutter it can quickly start to get out of hand, and make things feel crowded, overwhelming, dark and heavy. (I was desperate to talk about Marie Kondo here, but I’ll save that for another day :D )
I’m a very visual person, and the old idiom about not being able to see the wood for the trees is possibly the most perfect metaphor for this. Imagine being surrounded by tall, wide trees. Trees that are obstructing your path and your view. Trees that loom over you and don’t let any light in. Trees that don’t allow you to see anything beyond their solid trunks in any direction. How on earth can you see which direction is best, or where the horizon is to get your bearings, or see where your ultimate destination lies if all you can see are the trees themselves. Trees that are essentially trapping you where you are. THAT is what overwhelmed feels like.
In that state, how can any of us make good decisions or take our life, business, or even our DAY in the right direction? The best possible thing you can do is to give yourself space to breathe, plan, and think about the landscape beyond the trees. Let the light and air in and give yourself a chance to see where success lies. Exactly how you interpret that may be different depending on your preferences and your circumstances, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.
Space to think
The basic process that I find helpful is really (really) simple:
Get away from your desk (or usual situation.)
This is really key. For me that usually means going to sit under the trees in the garden, or taking myself off to a quiet coffee shop with my notepad. You could go for a walk in nature, sit in a quiet corner of your home with a cup of tea, hire a quiet meeting room somewhere, take yourself to a cool clamping spot for a night or two, go to a spa or even just get out and sit on a park bench nearby for a bit.
Breathe. Seriously, just breathe.
Breathing as a focus for meditation is a tried and tested and very simple way of calming both your mind and your heart rate. You don’t need to do anything fancy, or sit any particular way, or even close your eyes. Just…breathe. Take a minute, and just focus on breathing slowly in and out.
Take a notepad and pen and start to write, plan and prioritise.
This part of the process will look different depending on what you want to achieve. But they key is to take it slowly, do it with intention and a focus on your ultimate criteria for success and happiness. Coming from a place of positivity is the best way to ensure you are both productive and realistic in your planning.
We ALL need this
Whether you are just trying to get through this week’s chores, or you are planning the strategy for your next year of business, I promise that one of the best ways to get clear on what is really important, and what is just excess noise, is to create space for yourself.
I must confess that often I feel like giving myself time and space to think is ‘wasting’ time…that it would be better to just carry on and ‘get sh*t done’. But every time I DO give myself space - I come back feeling more motivated, together and positive that before.
It is not selfish to replenish your energy reserves or to take time and space to get some mental clarity. It is both necessary and healthy. You cannot keep doing all the things all the time. You don’t HAVE to.
As the saying goes: “You cannot pour from an empty cup”. Take care of YOU friends, because the world needs your awesomeness.
PS: I love trees and want to make it very clear I was in no way picking on them. ;)
THE KINTSUGI JOURNAL
Kintsugi: The Japanese art of repairing what is broken or damaged with pure gold resin. A philosophical approach that teaches us to treat our flaws and experience as precious parts of us which make us more beautiful and unique, rather than striving for some perceived perfection.
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