Escape from a Hurried Life

 

How to Escape from a Hurried Life

A friend and I talked one day about the perils of a hurried life and how hazardous it is to our souls. The more we considered how much a hurried life turns our souls into raisins and preps us to give beef jerky instead of steak to the people we love, the more we agreed, a hurried life is actually a toxic life.

Hurried is different than busy or demanding. You can carry lots of responsibility without being hurried. Hurried is: rushed, distracted, frantic, uncreative, non-present. In fact, hurried strikes me as the enemy of being fully present. It is a seductress that lures us into working alone and frantically faster. It is that state of anxiety where the next 4-5 things on your to-do list preoccupy your thoughts and make it hard to stay focused on the people or tasks of the moment.

The key to living in a different way is not primarily dictated by the quantity of things on your plate, but by how you live with that plate. Of course, it just might be that you have too much on your plate. If so, you’ll have to do some surgical downsizing.

If you are driven and compulsive and have your identity all wrapped up in your work, you probably have tougher issues that I can help with in this post. There are no ego strokes to be gained by living as a harried lunatic. However, I can tell you that, the leader who lives an unhurried and unharried life offers a beacon of hope to everyone who is buried by the endless demands of a 24/7 world.

If you are open to new ideas that might inject breathing space — the influx of fresh air — into your daily workload, I have four keys to help you get started.

#1 KEY = Linger in the Seams

The seams are those moments between appointments, that short breather right after putting one task to bed, the gap created by someone who is late, or the cup of coffee before opening your computer at the beginning of the day.

If you pay attention to them, you will find you have lots of little seams in the ebb and flow of your day. You have lots of little cracks in your day, just stop and linger in them. Embrace the shift without rushing forward. Take a walk. Don’t rush into the next thing. Take a moment to mentally and emotionally put to bed whatever you just finished doing. Before plowing forward, stop and reflect, “what matters most in the appointment or project that comes next?” And, while you are at it, pray for the person or project you are stepping away from as well as the one you are about to move into. The world will wait.

#2 KEY = Practice Being Fully Present with People

This is not hard. Every time you are with someone, adopt the posture of extreme curiosity. Ask them questions. See if you can discover something new to learn. Hold your tongue from delivering that witty repartee and instead seek to ferret out the complexities of emotions they face.

Being fully present with people will demolish the feeling of “another appointment” and take you into a life filled with meaningful relationships.

#3 KEY = Set Aside Time for Follow Up

It seems that every appointment or meeting I have requires some level of follow-up work afterward. It might just be entering a few notes into my computer for future reference. Or, it might be specific assignments that came during the course of the meeting. When I forget about this reality and don’t plan time to address the follow-up work that happens, I find that it jambs up my schedule and contributes to a feeling of hurriedness–too much work, too little time.

The solution is rather simple. When entering an appointment into my calendar, I simultaneously enter another block of time (usually 50% as long as the initial appointment) during which I can get the follow-up work completed. Once in a while I need longer than anticipated, but I am still way ahead of the game with much less schedule stress.

#4 KEY = Say NO to Something Everyday

I actually think that learning to say no is a leadership muscle that needs regular exercise in order to stay in shape. Try it. Say no to one request every day. Say no to an urgent “need” of someone who has a wonderful plan for your life. Say no to that temptation to squeeze in one more thing before wrapping things up for the day. Say no to a request to do something out of obligation that you honestly wouldn’t find much fun.

This tip may sound crazy or even selfish, but there is something powerful about exercising this muscle everyday. Try it. You have plenty of opportunities to say no to things you should never have said yes to. As you do, you will tangibly remind yourself that you are not a victim. Your life and your schedule is populated by your choices.

 

These are only four practices, I’d bet you have others.
What have you tried that actually works?
Make a comment, extend the conversation.

Besides, today is Memorial Day. Do something besides work.

Elasticity and Time for Reflection

Let me start with a confession. I love shooting rubber bands at people. I’m sure it started in elementary school when real weapons were off limits, but the truth is I still love that mischievous sensation of pulling a strand of rubber across my pistol-shaped hand and firing away.



And no, this post isn’t really about shooting rubber bands. It is about the connection between elasticity and what is required for leaders to have time and space for reflection.

Leaders get things done. They don’t merely mobilize others to accomplish great things, they know how to work hard and are willing to keep their head down to do whatever it takes. The only problem is, keep your nose to the grindstone too long, you get blood in your eyes.

The ability to lead with sustained creativity and clarity requires time and space for reflection. Get embroiled in micro-management, problem-solving, or personnel issues for too long and you’ll lose the perspective that is only possible with regular reflection.

That’s where elasticity comes in. Meaningful reflection requires two things: elastic time and elastic space.

ELASTIC TIME

Unconstrained, open-ended, or at least long enough to exhaust it’s potential. Elastic time gives you the freedom to read, write, create, or ponder without the pressure that you have to pack up and move on to other urgent stuff in a few minutes. It means you have the chance to explore rabbit trails, whether they numberswiki.com

yield anything productive or not. It can stretch and expand or contract as needed.

ELASTIC SPACE

Reflection by it’s nature is creative explorative stuff. It happens best in space that invites expansive thought and behavior. It happens better in overstuffed chairs and fireplaces living rooms than in cubicles. Reflection is nurtured when you have the ability to spread out, to have two different books open at the same time, or to draw and sketch out your ideas. In essence it is space that allows you to multi-task without constraints.

Here’s no surprise. Making time for reflection will never seem urgent. There will always be tasks and people demanding urgent attention, while reflection feels like a luxury. She waits patiently at the side of your day offering to infuse you with fresh ideas that will take you beyond the mundane demands of your normal rhythms. She breathes life and innovation and perspective into your day to day demands. Until you say yes, you will never know what could have been.

And, try to lead for long without the life-giving infusion of reflective thought and your rubber band will dry out — only to snap on you next time you aim at someone or something else.

So, let’s ask the obvious.

1. When is the last time you had elastic time and space for reflection?
2. Where and when could you rectify that situation?
3. How much longer can you survive with your nose at the grindstone?

Your Thoughts?  Experience?

Lord, Teach Me to Number My Days

Yesterday, we had a normal text conversation with a really close friend of ours about the custody hearing of his daughter regarding her child. Then at 7:14 this morning my phone rang and I learned that this same friend and daughter were shot and killed by her ex-husband last evening.

Emotionally I’ve spent the day vacillating between shock, sorrow, anger, and indignation. This was a good friend and truly a fine caring man. He was a loving generous grandfather who gave himself in sacrificial ways to his family. He and his wife had hopes and dreams about their retirement years. There are many things I could say about Russ, but since you don’t know him I need to write about the personal reflections I cannot escape.

In the words of David, the great song writer, “Lord, teach us to number our days.” (Ps 90:12)  In my own words, “Lord, help me put today in perspective, by attending to the fact that each day is a sacred gift, a limited commodity. Help me live aware of the fact that I will never know how many days I have ahead of me.”

The truth is, in my entire life, all I ever have at my disposal is one day: today! Yesterday is a memory I can celebrate, treasure, learn from, etc. Tomorrow is a day I can plan for. But, the only day within my grasp, the only day where my purpose and priorities and values can be actively lived out, is today. In a tangible way, the real number of our days is ONE.

“Lord, teach us to number our days aright, that we might gain a heart of wisdom.” Wisdom, not drivenness. Drivenness would be the American way–run faster, do more, strive harder, live in a panic. On the contrary, embracing the reality that only one day lies within our grasp should lead us to depth, direction, and the de-cluttering of our lives.

I think this is one of the core messages of my life: the power of one day. When I live in the light of one day, it keeps me sensitive to the sacred nature of my own life and the people who populate it. It focuses my attention on the direction of my life and how I might lived connected to the Kingdom. It keeps me passionate about living in intimacy with Jesus as I seek to follow him. Today is the day when I get to live out my convictions, give my life away serving the potential of others, participate in the redemptive work of the Gospel. Today–every day–is pregnant and holy and fragile.

In all my life, I only have one day at my disposal. So, Lord, as I lean into the sorrow and loss of my friend, show me more about how I might live into the sacred trust of life called “today.”

———————-

p.s. I have touched on this theme of life as fragile and sacred before. Here are a links to some of those posts:

Life is Sacred:

http://aboutleading.com/2009/03/13/life-is-fragileand-sacred/

– Grieving and the Health of my Soul:

http://aboutleading.com/2009/10/07/grieving-and-the-health-of-my-soul/

– Life is Long and Fragile:

http://aboutleading.com/2008/03/20/life-is-longand-fragile/

Life is Long……and fragile

watchLife is long and paradoxically fragile.

In spite of the fact that we blaze through the demands of our daily lives at an impatient pace, the truth is, life is long. It takes time to accomplish anything great. It takes time to build deep relationships. Nothing happens as quickly as we would like. It takes time.

At the same time, it can be threatened in a heartbeat.
A few weeks ago, I led a ceremony for a married couple renewing their vows on their tenth anniversary. The day before the ceremony, the ‘grooms’ brother said to me, “this really is an accomplishment. I don’t have any friends who are still married and happy about it after ten years.”

A cruel word, a careless decision, a selfish choice, and a host of easy missteps and you do long-term damage to any relationship. Yet in contrast, the stuff that strengthens a relationship tends to be small, daily, non-dramatic, easy to dismiss. What takes a long time to build can be damaged with amazing speed.

It’s the same with your health. Right eating and exercise generally builds a healthier body. But a random DNA flaw, a weak heart valve or a rogue cancer cell and that temple of health is undone. A careless driver or mechanical flaw and a traffic accident can change your future forever.

I think this is part of what God meant when he spoke through the Psalmist telling us to number our days.(Psalm 90) Today is the only day we will ever have within our grasp. Tomorrow is unknown and yesterday is a memory. Today is sacred. Holy. So, seize opportunities to influence others. Celebrate more. Relax more. Choose to love the people who populate the fabric of your life. Laugh. Enjoy. Take God and his mission in the world seriously, but lighten up on most of the other stuff. Learn all there is about all you can. Today is the only moment of eternity you can touch, so drink it in as a gift. And do those things today that will make tomorrow better.