Give me a break

June 30, 2009

In its July/August 2009 issue, Experience Life magazine covers a most intriguing topic about the importance of time-outs in our lives. It is a scientific facts that our bodies need a rest after only 90 minutes of focused head work.

According to psychobiology researcher Ernest Rossi, PhD, a leading expert on ultradian rhythms and how they affect human biology, people are programmed to want to take a 20-minute break after every 90 minutes of intense focus or activity. And it’s not just that we want a break, says Rossi, we actually need one if we hope to operate at peak effectiveness and efficiency.

I always knew taking a nap was a good idea. But not only that ~ we benefit from a daily time-out in other ways, too. The article cites the classic example of Google’s 80/20 rule in which 20% of the time should be spent ‘goofing off’. It is meant to raise people’s productivity levels. Given Google’s global grip, I’d say they’re on to something.

Mid-day respites are not just for the IT industry. My husband’s biotech company encourages a round or two of Fussball during their lunch break. Since I work for myself, a brief jaunt outside to smell the roses does me a world of good.

How do you rest each day?

Time Gone By

June 29, 2009

The sands of time are best observed at your twentieth (or thirtieth or fortieth) high school reunion. This weekend I spent a marvelous six hours getting reacquainted with people I hadn’t seen in 23 years. When I was 16, I spent a year abroad at a German high school in the suburbs of Bonn. What astonished me most was how we remembered each other ~ some of the people barely remembered me at all while others recalled details even I had forgotten. It was a spectacular way to establish a positive relationship with time. We might have a few lines and stories more, but our true selves had already been formed when we met.

The neat thing about old friends is not only the shared history, but also the immediate background of relatedness you feel with someone you knew when you weren’t who you are today. The ever-evolving temporal-spatial relationship reminds me of my daughter’s geometry homework. Parallel lines never met. Perpendicular ones do, but only for one point in time.  Some of our lines cross. Some of them don’t. The mystery of time unfolding keeps us in a constant state of curiosity. What will happen next?

Life. A glorious thrill ride.

Many warm thanks to Bas de Bar, The Project Shrink,  for a lovely chat about personal productivity, expectation management and how to delegate without dumping!

Welcome to the new Wednesday Wisdom summer audio series! For the next ten Wednesdays, you’ll be hearing how people find time to do what they love straight from the street.

Dr. Marlene Caroselli, author of 60 books, told me she has eliminated her telephone as the ultimate distractor. She prefers email as the ultimate streamlining tool.

For her inspirational one-minute message on how she does it, listen to Marlene Caroselli here. [Listening instructions: Click on the link, then click on it again for it to open your media player. Be sure your pop-up blocker has been deactivated.]

Material Simplicity

June 22, 2009

Eileen Flanagan caught my attention after she left the most thought-provoking comment the other day on this blog. As the author of The Wisdom to Know the Difference: When to Make A Change–and When to Let Go, she showed me so much gentleness and clarity. I got curious and asked to learn more about her. She mentioned she was a Quaker, a spiritual practice I briefly mention in The Power of Slow.

The End of Distraction

quakers“When Quakerism began in seventeenth century England,” she told me, “followers sought to center their lives on God and so tried to eliminate anything that might serve as a distraction.” We all know what distracts us today. Imagine living a life without it.

(Image from

“Today very few Quakers (or Friends) continue to dress in the manner associated with the Amish,” she reported, “but most agree that putting too much attention on having nice clothes or fancy possessions can distract you from what is most important. For many contemporary Quakers, concern about the environment and the global distribution of wealth are added reasons not to use more than we need.”

Simplicity at Home

Have you taken a good look at the contents of your refrigerator lately? I used to own way too many condiments until my in-laws recently moved in for two weeks. After they had left, the jars of indistinguishables disappeared with them. We haven’t replaced them and now there’s an airyness about the fridge like nobody’s business. Pretty inspiring.

The Quaker community has a meditative quality I really enjoy. I attended a service once in which we bathed in silence until one or two people spoke up. As Eileen states, “Many Quakers continue with the silent form of worship begun by early Friends. Worship usually lasts about an hour, but it’s not always silent. If during that time someone feels divinely inspired to offer a ‘message’, they may stand and speak. For me this hour to center is vitally important, especially after having children made my daily meditation practice more irregular and sometimes non-existent.”

Importance of Down Time

She agrees moments of down time are essential. Like my own family, she has instituted ‘quiet time’. As our kids have gotten older, we have found it increasingly difficult to enforce: soccer practice, friends, school, and music class seem to have butt in to what we used to cherish every day after lunch. It was easier when they were little and had fewer demands, I suppose.

“Our family sometimes has a ‘quiet time’ with our children before bed,” Eileen said. “Ten or fifteen minutes to snuggle on the couch in front of a candle–but given that Quakers are now part of the wider culture–with homework, soccer games, play practice, and the like–many of us struggle to live with simplicity and slowness in our daily lives.”

It seems no one is immune to today’s hectic pace of life.

Eileen said the “Quakers belief in waiting when we are not certain what is the right thing to do. As a congregation we seek to find ‘unity’ (similar to consensus, but not exactly the same). This process can be frustratingly slow, but often brings better results in the long term than rushing to a decision.”

As I mentioned in an earlier post, things happen all in good time. Letting go is a never-ending process. I appreciate Eileen’s notions and sacred message. We could all use a little more serenity in our day.

Gadgetless Travels

June 20, 2009

The call came in just as I was leaving the parking lot. My casting agent asked if I might dash over to another TV show set to fill in for someone who didn’t show up. I had just wrapped up filming a TV drama. I played a small role as a secretary in a foreign office and was pleased that we were done by noon. So I agreed, as long as she could show me how to get there.

I met her in her office briefly to discuss travel details. Without a GPS I wasn’t sure I’d find my way. After two years, we had to return the company car whose GPS we christened Nancy the Navigator. She was unfriendly, but efficient. Or so we thought.

It turns out I found the place just fine with the mental directions stored in my head. In the process I noticed my surroundings much more. My awareness was raised because it had to be, otherwise I might have missed a turn. It made me realize how mind-numbing gadgets can be.

I used to rely on Nancy’s steady, insistent voice to turn this way or that. With her gone I was a little uncertain. But then I realized an ounce of faith can take you a long way. So I put faith, not in technology, but in myself.

It was a freeing moment of gadgetless travel. I liked it. You might want to give it a try!