June 29, 2010
Meditation is a great way to connect with Source. Prayer is one common form of meditation. BeliefNet.com offers some great ways to do just that. The great news? Prayer is free. The results? Priceless!
June 28, 2010
Last week was tremendous. Picking up the pace a bit, I travelled with book author, Deborah King (Truth Heals), acting as translator of both words and meaning. It was an extraordinary experience into the depths of the human soul (she does energy work). Despite the tiresome travel, I was left feeling energized and centered. I even learned that hugging a tree can ground you like nothing else, except perhaps my husband’s feet.
The kids came with my husband to the Austrian resort, which was our final destination on the week-long tour. My daughter rode horses, played with the animals and had a great time helping herself to the buffet. My son fell in love with our friends’ dogs and made mental plans to see them again soon. The warmth of the sun offset our despondence at the US loss during Saturday night’s World Cup soccer match.
Because I had kept up with most of my emails, I came home with less overwhelm than usual after a week’s absence. In fact, I realized how fine the balance can be between too much time ‘on’ and too much time ‘off’. We sometimes think we have to be ‘on’ all the time. Not so. Unplugging for a weekend of fun and frolicking can be just the thing to make your Monday joyful and slow!
June 24, 2010
I had an interesting twitter conversation with @wowOwow. She jokingly offered up a slow tip: one glass of wine and sluggishness sets in. She brought up a great point that warrants addressing here.
Slow does not equal sluggish. Slow is centered and energized. While I’m a oenophile (okay, so I looked it up and it means wine lover), drinking wine certainly can slow you down. As anyone who’s been to a frat party knows, drinking too much will slow you down in ways that hamper your well-being.
If you are feeling sluggish, evaluate some of the habits in which you engage. Do you stay up too late at night? Do you get up too early? Do you jam-pack your weekends, emulating the treadmill you’re on during the work week?
Taking it down a notch might seem like a daunting task. Maybe you are going at the right speed that works for you. Or maybe you are not. Select one thing that you habitually do and alter how you do it for a week (it takes 21 days to change a habit for good). See how it feels. Then let me know!
June 22, 2010
Publishing a book about slowing down can be a daunting task for any self-respecting house. The publisher engages in a game of risk that the author might not deliver on time because she has drunk the Kool-Aid too much, bringing her project to a screeching halt before it has even taken off. Will she take her slow principles so seriously as to dodge deadline and head for the beach instead? Truth be told, I’ve never written a book so fast in my life.
The irony of writing a book such as The Power of Slow: 101 Ways to Save Time in Our 24/7 World is the method in which it was created. I went about applying the very principles I discuss because, after all, practicing and preaching go hand in hand. While the title implies a turtle’s pace, I actually found myself in a semi-permanent state of flow, as if forces beyond my understanding had housed my writer’s mind. Not unlike my other works, the title took form first, followed by the structure. Because I work well with a framework, it seemed to make sense to design the book with an equal number of principles in each of the first ten chapters, then leave the most powerful, and most simple, principle for last. Without my knowing, the final principle was the same one that informed all the rest, making a neat package to present the reader with a satisfying ending. When I huddled with my agent about the idea, it seemed to stem from nowhere. In reality it was a compilation of various germinating ideas that bloomed at the right moment.
Writing a book can be overwhelming, bringing about what Germans call the innerer Schweinehund, the inner pig-dog also known as our procrastinating selves that offer textbook reasoning as to why now is never a good idea. If you lack a certain level of organizational skill, the inner pig-dog licks its chops as you suffer the consequences of your own behavior. Any publisher would agree procrastination leads to a domino effect. You simply can’t afford to put off today what you can do tomorrow.
While not a procrastinator, I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly well-organized person. One look at my desk reveals a lazy chaos of deserted thoughts: the cell phone charger interlaced with a stapler; unusable pens in an upside down CD tower top; two TV media clips from recent segments I’ve done; and old tickets from performances that haven’t made it to the scrapbook I’ve been meaning to do since my first child’s arrival (she is eleven). Bobbing above the chaos are two pictures of my children whose encouraging faces remind me why I engage in storytelling on virtually a daily basis.
The power of slow is a mental state, and while some organization experts would chastise me for my failing discipline, I know exactly where everything is. I consider the creative chaos to be visual cues to our human dilemma: life isn’t all sharpened pencils and dust-free surfaces. If my desk were battened down in controlled rows of calm, I’d never be in a position to unleash the creative fury dwelling deep inside. I managed to write a book in record time (before the January deadline), despite the uneven stacks of paper gracing my office floor. Sound like I’m making excuses? Perhaps I am.
Productivity is a term with deep implications in Western society. If we obtain it, we are considered successful. If we don’t, we are not. While writing The Power of Slow, I examined why we do the things we do such as obsessive email checking or excessive texting. It’s not particularly productive, nor does it add to our well-being. Why do we spend so much time with our gadgets in a virtual realm of connectivity? We ignore the people standing right beside us, interrupt them when our phones ring, and talk more animatedly into a headset than to our fellow peers in the next cubicle. In effect, we waste the units in our personal bank account of time, often engaging in useless activity.
Where are our manners? Where is our mindfulness for ourselves and others? We are in danger of becoming drones in a drama of our own making. We need to act fast in order to slow down.
Unplugging for two weeks, I gathered up my family, who had already begun showing signs of book fatigue by late August, and took them to the Adriatic coast for some fun in the sun. Saddled down with seven books, I had read and highlighted every single one by the last day of vacation. Living the slow, I strolled along the pool one day when it hit me. I could actually hear the sound of my own flip flops as they slapped my heels in rhythm to the burbling water before me. Inspired, I grabbed a notebook and jotted down a few ideas about walking speed and the pace of life. The flip-flop principle of checking how fast we walk by noting the speed of the slap was born. Many more ideas followed in rapid succession. In fact, the modernized fable of the unplugged tortoise and the online hare in the prologue arrived right on time as I banged out chapter after chapter while sitting in a hotel room in Budapest.
The beauty of the Internet is a writer’s ability to work and live virtually anywhere. With this malleability comes the danger, not just for writers, but for any transient worker, of an unabashed, hyperconnectivity that zaps our life force for all its worth. Admittedly, I had one media interview (ironically about slow living) while in Italy, and a client call while in Budapest. These minor distractions reminded me that there is a world waiting for us all whenever we choose to visit, but that how we live now is all there truly is.
June 21, 2010
Being grounded, not in the teenage-uh-oh-mom-caught-me-doing-something sense of the word, but standing in the delicious centeredness of the here and now, is an enviable place to be.
My husband is the most centered person I know. Little sways his oak tree solidness to the left or right. He skates through life with an equinimity I’ve never seen in another human being. He is Mr. Placid to the nth degree.
So when I find myself in the fretting hour, typically a pre-dawn angst that sometimes grabs my attention at 4 a.m. (did you remember the kids’ lunch money? Don’t forget today’s conference call!), I reach for his feet and stack them against mine.
Last night I nuzzled close because I couldn’t find his feet. At that point, after several moments of wakefulness, I reasoned that any part of his warmth would do. But as it goes, when you’ve been married for as long as we have, he instinctively offered up his flippers in mid-snooze. I immediately felt the groundedness and goodness he embodies and fell fast asleep.
Getting grounded is an important activity. It can aid in your productivity like nothing else. So the next time your world goes topsy-turvey, what grounding strategies will you employ?
June 20, 2010
June 18, 2010
Blame it on the late-night viewing of the World Cup, the early mornings as the kids go off to school or the somewhat overwhelming tendency of life happening all at once, but I’ve gotta say one thing. I’m pooped! Yes, even your slow-loving pal gets a bit bone-weary at times. We all do.
Looking back on my week, I asked myself what I might have done differently. Saved my son’s immunization shots for another day? Not really. Ignored the dishes, the laundry, the food shopping? A quick fix that is more trouble than it’s worth. Should I have said no to the really well-paying last-minute story? I could have, but it was easy and it wasn’t a big deal.
Therein lies the problem. In and of itself things are relatively simple. You get up, do your job, love your kids and fall happily ever after into bed before you get up to do it again the next day. If you add up all those things, however, you got a whole lot of simple. And then it becomes hard.
Yesterday, for the first time in ages, I felt the crush of the rush as I pressed each minute for what it was worth. I mean really. All I was doing was visiting a few friends, yet I could tell it might have been better to hunker down with a good book for the afternoon. I realized I had a choice, but the momentum of my self-made vortex caught me off guard – and kept me there.
I am grateful for weeks like these as it fills me with compassion for the many people who feel the weight of their days all the time.
To you I say “Love yourself. Declare ‘Done. Not perfect’ and move on.” Let us join the Slow Circle as we remind each other that slow equals sustainable and everything else is optional.
June 17, 2010
When do you focus best? Take this poll and let me know! It will be the basis of a new podcast series starting in July called Focus Fridays. Have a success story to share about how you eliminated distraction for your life? Leave a comment and let me know and you may be featured in one of the podcasts!
June 16, 2010
“China?” My friend’s face dropped a notch. His company was sending him on a six-month stint to the coldest part of China starting September. He knew his career depended on it. His wife seemed philosophical.
“I’ve always wanted to visit The Great Wall,” she smiled.
And so he went with a tear in his eye while he left his wife and kids to fend for themselves.
Project work can be stressful. If you work for a project-oriented organization as my friend does, work-life balance is an Ivory Tower term. It sounds great, but doesn’t exist. While I advocate words such as ‘alignment’ and ‘life’s purpose’, we all know what is meant by the work-life analogy. Work is a part of life. It’s not everything.
Rodney Turner, Martina Huemann and Anne Keegan reported on the challenges of work-life balance for project-based organizations in the International Journal of Project Management 26 (2008) 577-585. They concluded that project managers are self-selecting (meaning they really do like the diversity project-based work brings and therefore choose their projects as they wish). The greatest challenge is with shorter term projects, such as the one my friend had to lead. Budgets are made well in advance so you risk not having the resources to carry out your job. You also have a high level of intensity the entire time due to tight timelines. Larger projects are more foreseeable. You can pace yourself better and spend time with family in between.
“The ideal project-oriented organization,” the authors claim, “has a specific management culture expressed in the empowerment of employees, process-orientation and team work, continuous and discontinuous organizational change, customer-orientation and networking with clients and suppliers.”
In other words, they have more time to be human.
Interviewing over 50 managers in 15 organizations throughout Europe and the US, the authors inquired as to the ethical treatment of the employees. Many of the employees opted to work 60 to 70 hours per week simply because they enjoyed the work. As any consultant will tell you, we enjoy the feast before the famine. And contractors are under pressure to bid the lowest while still building in a profit margin to get the work done under budget.
“For companies undertaking large proejcts, the work environment is less dynamic, less frenetic and so tehre is greater cope for balancing the work load.”
If you find yourself in a hectic work environment, ask yourself if it’s really worth it. In the case of my friend, he had no choice if he wanted to remain employed. And the kicker? He wants to go back to China every now and then to check in with his former team. Somehow, despite all the hardship he learned a lot and realized his potential in ways he never imagined.