As you run from meeting to meeting and kid’s soccer game to community board meeting, do you ever feel like you’ve lost your ability to appreciate the now? Are you so focused on the never-ending to do list of life that you feel like your power switch is permanently stuck in the off position?
If so, here are a few of the techniques I’ve tried that have helped me get back on track.
In 2002, when I had completely burned out after 10 years of running the non-profit I started, I took a 6-month sabbatical. Since I am terrible at saying no to people who ask me for help, I asked 5 of my friends to serve as my “No Committee”. Every time someone reached out to me with a great idea for how I could help them (serve on an advisory board, read a business plan, etc.), I asked these friends whether they thought it was a good idea that I take this on. If I got 4 out of 5 to say yes, then I could agree to the new opportunity. If not, I said no. In 6 months, to my immense relief, only 1 request passed muster with the “Committee”. Even after my sabbatical was over, and the “Committee” was officially disbanded, I occasionally invoked them in turning down an appeal for my time saying, “Sorry, my ‘No Committee’ will never agree to that.” People were often so busy asking about what a “No Committee” was, they failed to realize I had just turned down their request.
My friend and mentor Sam Horn is the person who taught me this technique. Several times over the last few years, when we have been together in amazing places (like in Hawaii on retreat or waiting in line for entry to the White House (!) to attend a meeting) she has stopped, put her hand on my arm and invited me to look around and take a mental snapshot of that moment. By reminding me to imprint these important experiences, she has encouraged me to stop and smell the roses and also helped me create magical memories that I can return to when I’m stressed or feeling out of sorts.
My friends Kimberly Wiefling and Mary LoVerde were the two people who introduced me to the power of gratitude and affirmations. Whether you choose just one phrase that you repeat often to yourself (ex: ‘I am a powerful and confident person who achieves what she sets her mind to’), you create a small notebook with multiple affirmations that you refer to regularly or you choose to create a list of things you are grateful for every morning, these rituals are helpful for grounding and centering – even in life’s craziest moments.
One of the simplest tools for me to get more clarity and focus has been mind mapping. I set down a question or concern in the center of a piece of paper and then start drawing out solutions that come to mind, using the branches of the mind map to go deeper and deeper into whatever question I am trying to resolve. If you prefer, there are great mind mapping software tools – I use iThoughtsHD on my iPad and find it very powerful yet simple to use. (For a fun example of how I used mindmapping, read my recent post.)
My new friend, time management specialist Jean Maroney, introduced me to this technique. At the end of every project, meeting or call, ask yourself the following 3 questions:
1. What were my Key Take-Aways?
2. Do I have any Open Questions?
3. What are my Next Steps?
By jotting down the answers to these simple questions, we have the opportunity to clear our mind and also quickly position ourselves for what’s ahead. Learn more about this technique from Jean here.
The amazing Brene Brown shares a great Permission Slip exercise in her new course related to her book Daring Greatly. In it, she recommends that we all start important meetings and projects and challenging conversations by first writing out a few ways we are going to give ourselves permission to get the most out of the experience. She recommends writing them on Post-It Notes and when we can, share them with others we are working with. Ask yourself this question: What do you need to give yourself permission to do, to feel, or even to not do?
I hope these 6 rejuvenation and productivity techniques provide you with more clarity, focus and appreciation for the now in the midst of the flurry of your busy life. What are some of the techniques that you use? Share them with me privately or add a comment below.
Denise Brosseau is a thought leadership strategist, speaker and the author of Ready to Be a Thought Leader? from Wiley Press. Find her on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Learn more and join her mailing list at thoughtleadershiplab.com.