Last Monday morning I returned to mountains of work having been off for a week with my family for spring break (when we go on vacation we generally go “off the grid”). In addition to hundreds of emails, phone messages and requests for my time, I received several big, timely work opportunities for consideration. By Tuesday at noon, I was on the verge of overwhelm; even though I was starting my day with my self-care essentials (read more), my mind felt like a three-ring circus on Red bull.
So I did what any sane person would do–I unplugged and went offline all day Wednesday to give my highly analytical, tasking left brain a much needed break. I knew with every cell in my body that the decisions I needed to make would be best considered from a space of openness, creativity, relaxation and stillness. Not from a traffic-jam of never-ending thoughts.
Early Tuesday afternoon, I gave my team the head’s up I’d be doing some business planning offline all day Wednesday (yay team), I rescheduled all my appointments, I worked Tuesday night to tend to any urgent client issues and I put on an out-of-office autoreply for the following day.
The next morning, I moved slowly into the day; in our family, Wednesday is “ease day”; we purposely create an easier start for ourselves every hump day. I had a great meditation, set an intention for the day and consciously put my work decisions on the back burner of my consciousness to simmer.
I felt called to be outside barefoot and spent three hours in our backyard garden weeding, transplanting herbs and observing insects– letting my mind wander, expand and muse on my various business opportunities. I had lunch with my husband at a new food trailer and then spent the rest of the afternoon at a favorite, Austin co-working space writing/envisioning/mind-mapping/listing out where I felt called to direct my attention in the weeks and months to come.
It felt luxurious, restful, natural, delightful and nourishing. By the end of the day, I was crystal clear on “next steps,” in all areas of my business and I was able to arrive at work Thursday morning with renewed energy and focus.
Ten years ago I could not have imagined doing this. Just the thought of stepping back when I had such a full plate would have sent me over the cliff. But now, it’s the only way I know how to roll.
The other day I found an old aqua blue spiral notebook filled with page after page of detailed to-do lists. Flipping through the crammed, action-packed entries was a strong visceral reminder of how much energy I’m constantly generating, using (and wasting). Sure, I’m helping a lot of people and I love the work I do, but as I move deeper into the second half of life, I’m aware of how precious my energy–my life force–truly is and how essential it is that I honor, guard it and use it in the most meaningful way possible. Not just to “get stuff done.”
I’m clear that as I grow older, I care less about what I’m accomplishing and more about how I’m serving. And, how I’m treating myself … and others.
HOMEWORK: Some of my favorite questions to ponder as I consider how I manage my energy are: What is uniquely mine to do? Is this the right time for ______ (remembering: just because I can, doesn’t mean I should!)? Will this activity feed me or drain me? Grab a notebook and pen and unplug for a bit while you answer these questions. Feeling like you need more time? Consider taking a personal planning retreat.
SUPPORT RESOURCES: Want support for a new way of working/living that is more in-flow and at harmony with your natural rhythms? Check out my popular self-paced New Way of Being: Learning to Go with the Flow life balance audio class and if you live in Austin, my new Embracing the Wild Unknown: Nurturing Yourself in the Second Half of Life women’s group launching Friday, April 3 just had one spot come open–learn more and email me to check on availability. View all upcoming retreats/events here.
Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by life balance teacher/author and Career Strategists president, Renée Peterson Trudeau. Offering speaking, custom workshops, training, books/telecourses and individual coaching, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Spirituality & Health and more. Thousands of women in ten countries are becoming RTA-Certified Facilitators and leading/joining self-care groups based on her award-winning curriculum. She is the author of The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal and Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 13 year-old son. More on her background here.
Photo: I spent a good ten minutes observing this sweet snail family in my garden last Wednesday while I was weeding. I was in awe of the universe of life that exists in my backyard, but that can be easily missed if one moves too fast.