I like listening to podcasts when I am out and about with my ten month old daughter. She lays in the pram having a nap or just enjoying herself and I listen to all kind of podcasts, from Corporate Finance (I got a great grade in my MBA finance final exam thanks to a wonderful podcast), to Parenting, Psychology of Eating, History of Greek Philosophy, Coaching, Entrepreneur stories or Eastern Philosophies. It’s a great way to learn, explore topics I don’t have any prior knowledge on and, on blue days, to keep myself motivated and grateful. But, to the point: as I usually have one hand busy (carrying the baby and her stuff or pushing the pram) I never have time to store the headset properly. So every time I pull it out of the bag to connect it to my phone, the cables are more and more tangled. I do my best to put them in my ears, even if the cable is full of knots and the sounds is not great. I don’t have free hands, not even the free time, to stop and untangle it. If I stop the pram, the baby will cry, and that’s uncomfortable. For both of us. So I keep pushing it and keep using them until it is so tangled up, the ends don’t reach my ears. Then I have to stop and spend more than five minutes untangling the whole thing. The baby cries. I get nervous. Most of the time, I give up and try to remember to do it when I get home.
This experience of mine is a good metaphor of two behaviours we engage in quite frequently: we don’t deal with something until it gets really bad and we let other people’s needs to come before ours. Both behaviours can go hand in hand or on their own. I am sure you have seen these behaviours in many forms.
With the people I work and talk, these issues keep coming up. We are busy, we have limited time outside work, family/social commitments and household chores. So the limited amount that is left to take care of the people we love and ourselves is quite small, and our loved ones tend to get the first place. So we don’t have time to deal with our own stuff. To untangle. To unpack. To reflect, to check in, to take the mind for a walk, to leave us the space to think about what we want. To enjoy our own company or to deal with something that is bothering us.
This of course also apply to business owners and entrepreneurs: how many times the operational stuff, the admin craziness, the useless meetings take valuable time to plan, to strategize, to design, to talk to your end costumer, to have a relaxing talk with your business partner or to connect with your employees?
So how to untangle a little bit every day, so you don’t find yourself with a big mess that drains your energy? This is what I try to do on ongoing basis, at personal and professional level:
- Schedule CONNECTION time the day before: let’s be honest, you are not going to find yourself with free time if you don’t put an active effort in making it happen. Routine and status quo will take over. So before going to bed think where you can fit your CONNECTION time for the next day
- But what CONNECTION time means? CONNECTION time for me means an opportunity to check in and think and feel something that I need. It could be a business opportunity, an uncomfortable feeling I don’t know where is coming from, or something more basic and mundane…I try to set up a space where I can feel comfortable and not being disturbed (=my en suite), and have things to support me like a note pad, a candle or a nice herbal tea. As much as I can I try to do this while walking, as the movement keeps me focused. Try not to tell yourself you need to do research about the business opportunity or you’ll be on your laptop checking FB before you know it. You can always do that later. Now, give you that space to think and be on your own. Just a quick note: connection time is not meditation. When you are connecting you are following and engaging with your thoughts and feelings. Buddhists call our mind the monkey mind. So make sure you let the monkey have a play everyday or it will keep bothering you (waking you up at night for example).
- Start small: being with yourself and a notepad can sound too corny or too overwhelming or boring. I get it. I have been running away from myself for years, so I understand that ME time can be terrifying. I would suggest to give yourself a time frame that you feel comfortable with and take it from there. It can be two minutes. Soft music as background noise helps to deal with the intimidation. If you need to talk to someone to think better, as the conversation helps you to organize your thoughts, you can talk to the video camera of your phone or laptop. It’s like self-Skyping without the mess of unstable internet connection.
- Connect with yourself through others and with others: I do this with my three year old son, but it can be done with however you feel safe. When I put him to sleep we go over what we have done during the day. Not just facts, but also things we have thought and feel. I explained to him how I felt about things he did and do some reflective listening on how I think he felt. I think this is a good thing for his emotional intelligence. And then I briefly explain to him the things I am grateful for. This gives me lot of peace, grounding and perspective, and helps me to be more focused and to prioritise better. And it helps him to fall soundly asleep.
If still you don’t know where to start from, is always good to talk to someone with expertise on the matter. So as much as you can, reach out for professional help to support you in navigating any difficult issue.