A hurried life will turn your soul into a raisin and cause you to feed the people you love with beef jerky instead of steak. A hurried life is actually a toxic life. There is no way to provide the deeply thoughtful and creative responses to the profound challenges of our day, without unhurried time to think.
Don't confuse hurried with busy or demanding. You can carry lots of responsibility without being hurried. Hurried is rushed, distracted, frantic, uncreative, non-present. It is a seductress that lures us into working harder, faster, more frantically, and alone. Hurried feels like juggling the next 4-5 tasks while giving inadequate attention to the people or projects right in front of your right now.
The key to living differently is not primarily dictated by the number of things on your plate, but by how you live with the things on that plate. Sure, you might simply have too much on your plate. If so, you’ll have to surgically downsize. But, if your workload is at all reasonable, the strategies I am going to suggest can accomplish a lot.
However, if you are driven and compulsive and your personal identity is defined by all the important stuff you do… well, this is going to be hard. You have tougher issues than this post will touch.
Let me come down from the mountain of abstract urgency and become hyper practical. This subject extends far beyond simplistic suggestions, but as a starting point, let me offer five strategies you could apply right now to de-escalate your frantic factor.
#1 = Linger in the Seams
The seams are those moments between appointments. That short breather right after putting one task to bed. The transition from one type of work to another. The short little gap created by someone who is late. Or, the cup of coffee before opening your computer at the beginning of the day.
Look for them and you will find lots of little seams in the ebb and flow of your day. Linger in those moments. Breathe deeply. Don’t rush into the next thing. Get up and walk around if you can. Mentally and emotionally put to bed whatever you just finished. Before plowing forward, stop and reflect, “what matters most in the appointment or project that comes next?”
#2 = Practice Being Fully Present with People
To be fully present you will have to clear the noise from those other things on your daily task list and focus on the here and now. To help you with that try the following. When you are talking someone, adopt the posture of extreme curiosity. Ask them questions. See if you can discover something new to learn. Hold back from delivering that witty repartee and instead seek to ferret out the complexities of their world.
The good news is that being fully present with people will serve you as well as them. It will help you step away from thoughts of the next appointment and will fill your life with meaningful relationships.
#3 = Pre-Plan Time for Follow Up
It seems that every appointment or meeting I have requires some degree of follow-up work afterward. It might just be logging a few notes for future follow-up. Or, it might be specific assignments that surfaced during the course of the meeting. Without this protected time, I'm jammed up trying to squeeze it in or I have to extend the length of my work day. Either way feeds the frenzy of too much work, too little time.
The solution is rather simple. Anytime you enter appointment into your calendar, simultaneously reserve another block of time to do that follow up work. (My rule of thumb is to block 50% as much time as scheduled for the initial appointment). Once in a while, I need longer than anticipated, but I am still way ahead of the game with much less added stress.
#4 = SAY NO to Something Every Day
I'm not kidding. Saying 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 someone else's urgent “need.” Someone else's failure to plan is not your crisis.
Say no to that temptation to squeeze in one more thing before wrapping up for the day. Say no to a request to do something out of obligation that you honestly won’t enjoy doing. Say no on the front end before agreeing to something you’ll regret later. You are not a victim. Your life and your schedule is populated by your choices.
#5 = Block Time for Deep Work
Make appointments with yourself to protect time to work on non-urgent, future-focused deep-thought work. Block deep work time into your calendar multiple times per week. In Covey language this is time for that important but not-yet-urgent stuff.
Even more than the chance to get ahead on something that really matters, this practice provides time and space that is unencumbered by immediate need. It is the space to work creatively and creativity is life-giving in its own right.
These strategies are only five practices to start with, I’d bet you have others.
What else have you tried that actually works?