The Guilt of Not Working More, When We’re Done for the Day

At the end of a day of work, there can be a simple practice of wrapping things up and shutting down for the day.

But so many of us feel guilty at simply stopping, and this feeling that we should be doing more … it drives some of us to keep going as long as we can.

This can lead to overwork, burnout, tiredness, and never letting ourselves enjoy a moment of rest.

Do you relate to this guilt of simply stopping and resting?

The thing about this guilt is that it doesn’t have to be rational — it’s simply fear, that we’re not doing enough, that we’re not on top of things, that we’re not going to be OK if we don’t get everything done.

I know this fear well. I still have it, on a daily basis. It’s not rational, but then fear never is.

This fear will control us if we don’t bring a kind awareness to it, and start to work with us. It will own us, and we’ll always be checking our phones, replying to messages, stuck in perpetual motion. Rest becomes difficult, joy becomes mostly inaccessible.

Here’s how I work with this guilt and fear:

  1. Recognize it when it’s happening. When it’s late in the day, and we could be wrapping things up and closing our work day … notice the urge to do more. Notice the guilt of stopping. Just bring awareness to the fear and guilt, without judging them or needing them to go away.
  2. Breathe, and feel it. Pause, take a few deep breaths, and don’t let yourself buy into the fear. Feel the physical sensation of the fear, but don’t believe it. Give yourself some kindness.
  3. Remind yourself of a bigger truth. The idea that you should be on top of everything and working harder and checking emails and messages … it feels really true in the moment. But it is very rarely true. What’s a bigger truth? That you need rest to be able to serve others. That you are allowed to do other things, to spend time with others, to take care of yourself, to feel joy at spaciousness in your life. And this is a model for how others might live too. Taking rest serves the world. Remind yourself of this truth.
  4. Then take the rest. Feel in your heart how this is worthwhile. And let yourself enjoy the space. You don’t need to fill every moment with more work, more messages, more email.

How would you like to practice with this for yourself?

Read More

My Simple, High Impact Productivity Protocol

Much of our days are spent with busywork or distractions. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, busywork and distractions can be lovely ways to spend our time. But sometimes we want to use our time powerfully and effectively.

Let’s look at ways to work with increased impact.

Imagine a protocol that you followed that would have you do less each day, but have a bigger impact. Ask yourself if you’d be willing to face some discomfort for this.

So we want to focus on doing less, but on having a higher impact. And of course, we still need to take care of the smaller things in our lives, so everything doesn’t become a mess.

Here’s the protocol I try to follow:

  1. Choose high impact tasks.
  2. Unlock those tasks with focus sessions.
  3. Create rituals for smaller but important things that need caring for.

This gives me more space in the day, less feeling of overwhelm, and a feeling that I’m making a meaningful impact with the time I do spend working.

Let’s look at each of the three items in the protocol.

1. Choose High Impact Tasks

This starts at the beginning of the week, and the beginning of each day. Intentionally choose the high impact tasks before you start the week or day.

So each week, I think about what I want to accomplish. What high impact tasks will I focus on? Then I do the same at the beginning of each day: what high impact tasks do I want to accomplish today?

To decide if something is a high impact task, I ask myself:

  • Does this align with what I want to create long-term?
  • Will this make a big impact on my life and the lives of others?
  • Will I care about this at the end of this year? Will it move the needle in an important way?

The answer is likely to be either Yes or No for all three questions. It would be rare to be a Yes for one question and No for the others. But these questions help train the mind on the high impact tasks, so after awhile, you don’t even have to ask them — you can just tell.

Put 1-3 of these at the top of your list each day (depending on how much time you have).

2. Unlock High Impact Tasks with Focus Sessions

These high impact tasks are likely to come with resistance. So people put them off, and you’ll see them pushed back week after week.

Unlock these tasks and get them done!

The way to do that is with Focus Sessions. I will create a Focus Session for myself each day, at least one of them. This is where I intentionally face the discomfort of these tasks, and remind myself of why they matter.

Even better: if you find yourself put off a high impact task more than once, schedule a Focus Session with at least one other person. Get on a video call for an hour, tell each other what you’re going to focus on, and then go on mute. Get the task done, and report at the end of the hour how it went. This works every single time.

If you follow this part of the protocol, you’ll unlock hidden powers in your life!

3. Create Rituals to Take Care of Smaller, Important Things

Focusing on the big things is amazing, but what a lot of people find is that if you focus exclusively on the big things, the small things start to fall between the cracks. Your emails pile up, people start to get frustrated, you start to let people down.

So how do we balance the big things with the small things that need taking care of?

Rituals. Create a ritual for each type of small things, and put it on your calendar.

For example, you might have rituals for:

  • Email and messages each day
  • Laundry, household cleaning, errands
  • Cooking dinner, meal prep, grocery shopping
  • Workouts, meditations, walks
  • Finances, taxes, administrative stuff

You could have Admin & Finances Fridays (spend the whole day, or half a day). You could have 30 minutes twice a day for emails/messages. You could have family cooking and eating hour. Morning meditations and workout.

With these rituals (and do turn them into actual rituals), the small important things get taken care of, without taking time away from your Focus Sessions.

Read More

We’re Always Training Something

Every day, we go through a set of actions that is training our minds in the long term.

Sometimes we’re training intentionally: we meditate, practice focus, get ourselves to start a workout, resist temptations, etc.

Mostly, though, we’re training unintentionally: when you press snooze on the alarm clock, look at social media for 30 minutes, beat yourself up for something you’re not doing … these are probably things you’ve already trained yourself to do, and you’re reinforcing them each time you do them.

I’m not pointing this out to make anyone feel bad — this isn’t about making ourselves wrong for how we’re training ourselves. Goodness knows we do that enough.

I’m pointing this out because it gives us an opportunity — we can put awareness and intentionality into what we’re training, every day. This can change how we do everything, which can create a different way we’re showing up for our lives, and a different set of results.

For example:

  • If I wake up and check messages and social media … would I like to spend that time in meditation and journaling instead? Or perhaps create a planning session and stretching to start my day?
  • If I take breaks by watching videos, would I like to spend those breaks going for brief walks and stretching instead? Or reading a book if I’ve been meaning to read more?
  • If I go about my daily tasks by constantly switching between tasks and multiple distractions … would I like to train myself to enjoy singular focus instead?
  • If I toss my clothes on the ground after I take them off to shower or change … would I like to place them where they belong, and start to take care of my life?
  • If I rush through everything as if I can’t wait to be done with it all … would I like to spend more time actually caring about each task and activity, giving it my full attention?
  • If I treat people as annoying interruptions from my work … would I like instead to turn towards them with full attention and love?
  • If I stew in frustration about what someone else said or did … would I like to take care of my emotions and see the light in the other person instead?
  • If I put off my most meaningful tasks and projects for busywork … would I like to prioritize them and find the structure that will actually help me turn towards those tasks?
  • If I eat mindlessly whenever I’m stressed … would I like to bring compassion to my stress instead, and eat slowly and mindfully and joyfully?
  • If I treat my workouts like a chore to be put off or rushed through … would I like instead to treat them as sacred sessions to take care of my miracle of a body, and to bring joyful health into my life?
  • If I’m judgmental about others … would I like to bring curiosity and compassion instead?
  • If I complain about the world around us (including ourselves) … would I instead like to find gratitude for the miracle of life?

You can see that this is an opportunity to shift everything we do … and more importantly, shift how we do everything.

It takes a great degree of awareness of what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, but it’s an awareness we can develop with intention and practice. Which is exactly how we train something new: intention and practice.

What would you like to train in this moment?

Read More

How to Tackle a Mountain of Tasks

This month I came back to my work after taking a full month off — I am a stand for taking time off and finding time for rest and replenishment.

After a month off, it turns out I have a pile of tasks, emails and messages to go through!

It’s daunting. It can be discouraging to face this overwhelming amount of things, and the tendency is to put it off. Find some distractions. Feel disempowered about it.

Long story short: I struggled a bit, but found a way to dive back in and feel incredible about it. I’m still working through the piles, but loving every moment. I feel alive about my work, and what I’m creating each day.

I learned a lot in the past week about this kind of challenge — some of it was re-learning things I’ve learned before, but some of it was new learnings. I’d like to share here for anyone who is facing a daunting, overwhelming, discouraging mountain of tasks, messages and emails.

Let’s dive in.

Why We Feel Daunted: It’s an Impossible Task

We feel overwhelmed and discouraged because we look at the mountain of tasks and emails … and we think we have to do all of it. But we can’t! There’s no way to tackle a mountain in one go.

All of it gets grouped together in an impossible undertaking … but in truth, it’s a series of undertakings. It’s not one thing, but it seems like it is. It’s like looking at all the food we have left to eat in our lives, and thinking there’s no way we can eat all of that! But in reality, we eat it one delicious bite at a time.

So the first problem is that we look at all of it as one big impossible daunting thing. Instead of realizing we can only take one step at a time. One breath at a time. Separated, each task is not that hard. We have to pick one thing off the pile, and focus on that.

More on changing the way we look at the piles and the mountain of piles below … but for now, let’s look at how to get started.

How to Start

You can’t tackle everything at once. You just have to get started. What I’ve learned is that once you get started, and start having fun with it, you’ll see some progress, and then there’s a snowball effect where you keep getting encouraged by your progress. So you just have to get the ball rolling.

Here’s what worked for me:

  • Start slow. The first day back, I just dipped my toe in the water and tried to find a few things I could get done. I gave myself permission to not try to do everything that first day. If you’re not returning from vacation but are just facing a huge pile of things to do … today, give yourself permission to only do a few things, so you can start to make progress.
  • Find small wins to start with. I looked for small tasks and messages I could reply to, in order to get some easy victories. These are encouraging, and give you a sense of progress. So so important!
  • Start to triage. Start looking through the piles of tasks and emails, and see if there’s anything that’s more pressing. Pull those out and put them on a separate list to focus on. You can get to the rest later.
  • Get one thing done. That was my mantra — focus on getting one thing done. It could be small, medium, or large, but focus on one thing. I would get an easy thing done, then focus on another. And another. One at a time.
  • Find more small wins. Once I started making progress, I really enjoyed finding the little things I could do to start making the pile smaller and to get more victories under my belt. So much fun!
  • Make it into a game. As you can see, I turned this mountain of tasks and messages into play … by enjoying the progress. Enjoying each individual task. Putting love into every message. Taking care of my life. For me, it became like playing a game, that I’m still playing as I write this!

Don’t worry about doing all of that. You might find inspiration in one or two of the items above — give them a try.

How to Focus

It’s one thing to get started, but how do you find focus so that you aren’t thinking about the entire mountain of things to do?

I do three things …

First, I pick a handful of things to focus on today. Just 3-5 things. If it’s more than 5 things, they better be small things, but I don’t like having a long list because it’s hard to focus. So I pick a short list. If I finish the short list, I allow myself to go get some more tasks.

Second, I pick one thing from the short list and I focus only on that. I put it into fullscreen mode so there isn’t any other thing to think about. I make it my whole universe.

Third, I think about why this thing in front of me is important to me. Why do I care about it? What makes me feel inspired by it, lit up by it? This helps me to fully pour myself into this thing.

How to Find Delight in Each Thing

Often we relate to our tasks as things we “have to” do, as drudgery or chores or routine. No wonder we look at a mountain of tasks and feel overwhelmed and resistant!

What if we related to our tasks differently? Each email is a love note from a delightful person (yes, even spam!). Each task is a way to express ourselves, express our love.

What if we brought play and wonder to every task?

If you can bring full appreciation to each moment of life, it becomes a moment of miracle. That’s what we can bring to our tasks — a feeling of wonder, of devotion, of joy.

It takes practice, but see if you can do that for your next task!

Change the Way We Look at the Mountain of Tasks

Coming back to work, I looked at my mountain of tasks and felt some dread. How hard! So much dull work to do!

But of course, that wasn’t a helpful way to look at the mountain.

When I look at the mountains outside (you know, in the real world), I see incredible beauty and adventure. I feel a leap in my heart, a wanting to explore, a yearning for a journey.

What if the mountain of tasks and emails becomes this place of adventure, exploration, play, curiosity, learning, joy?

That’s how I choose to relate to my mountain. How about you?

Read More

Hundred Little Decisions: Training Ourselves at the Decision Point

Over and over, throughout the day, we make the Hundred Little Decisions: to work on this, to check email, to go to this website, to respond to messages, to grab a bite to eat, to meditate or exercise or do yoga or have tea or watch a video or push into deep purpose.

The Hundred Little Decision shape our day. They determine whether we’ve had a day of focus and calm and meaningful work, or distraction and procrastination.

It turns out, we can train ourselves at the decision point. When we have one of the Hundred Little Decisions come up, we can train how we’d like to respond.

Do we want to go to distraction? To response mode? To comfort? To avoidance?

Or do we want to do something connected to our mission and purpose? To something more meaningful than our comfort?

Let’s look at how to train at the decision point.

Start with the Motivation

If the motivation for this training is, “Because it sounds good” or “So I can get more productive,” you probably won’t stick to it.

It has to mean more than that.

So ask yourself these questions — journal about them, if you want to get serious about the training (and if you don’t want to get serious, just skip the rest of this article):

  • Who do I care deeply about? Go beyond the obvious answer of your loved ones — who do you want to serve?
  • How do I normally respond at one of the Hundred Little Decisions? What’s my normal go-to exit, comfort, habitual pattern? Get clear on this.
  • How does this pattern affect me?
  • How does it affect the people I care about?
  • How powerful would it be for me and for them if I shifted this?

Make this something you give a shit about. Make it more meaningful than the thing you usually go to. Make it about something more than yourself.

Starting the Training

To start the training, we want to make it really simple. We want to get good at recognizing the decision point, and then interrupting our usual pattern, just for a moment.

So here’s what to do:

  1. Put notes to yourself all over the place, where you won’t miss them. Your phone’s lock screen, a note on your computer, reminders that will pop up, notes on your bedside stand and bathroom mirror, and so forth. You want to remember to notice.
  2. Throughout the day, see if you can notice the Hundred Little Decisions you make — when you’re deciding to switch to something new. You’re on one website, and you want to go to another. You’re done with one task, and you’re deciding what to do next. Over and over, notice these decision points.
  3. When you notice a decision point, have some kind of small thing you say to yourself, like, “Aha!” or “Breathe”. Whatever feels right. It should call attention to the decision point.
  4. At this moment, all you have to do is pause. Take 3 conscious breaths (being present with them). Notice your surroundings.

That’s all you have to do. Try it for a week. After you pause and notice, you can go ahead and do whatever you want to do. Maybe it’s watch a video on Youtube, maybe it’s respond to a text. It doesn’t matter. Just notice, pause and breathe.

You’re bringing awareness to the decision point, and interrupting your pattern just a little.

Deepen the Training

After a week of this practice, you’ll be better at it than before. You don’t have to be perfect, but better. You’ll get better and better each week as you practice. Give yourself at least a month to see some effects.

At this point, you want to deepen the practice:

  1. At the pause, after you take 3 conscious breaths and widen your view … ask yourself a question: “What am I being called to do right now?” (More on this in a moment.)
  2. Open your heart to the people you want to serve. To your mission and purpose (or to listening to what your purpose might be, if you haven’t found one yet). To serving something bigger than yourself — your family, your friends, your team, your community, anything.
  3. Now set an intention to serve them through this next task. It can still be an email or responding to a text, if it feels connected to your purpose.

So let’s talk about the question, “What am I being called to do right now?” There’s no right answer to this question, but it puts you in a frame of mind where you drop into your body to feel what feels right to you. But not what feels comfortable or pleasurable … what feels in service of something bigger.

For me, this simply means breathing, feeling the sensations in my body, and opening my mind to the question. Usually one thing comes up. I need to write. I need to respond to my community. I need to read with my kids.

Whatever answer comes up, just trust it. Too often we go into indecision mode where we question ourselves and whether we’re doing the right thing. There’s no right thing. Trust what comes up for you and then commit to it. Be all in.

Continuing the Training

As you can see, after a week of this training, you’ll be much more aware of what you’re doing and when you’re deciding. You’ll become much more conscious at the decision point.

After two weeks, you’ll become much better at making more purposeful and conscious decisions. You won’t be as reactive or tied to your habitual patterns of comfort, avoidance, control and exiting.

Beyond that, you continue to bring awareness until you’re aware of the decision point for 80 of the Hundred Little Decisions. Maybe 85.

You practice bringing more connection to your purpose to each task, so that they feel more meaningful.

This is when the magic begins. But you have to train first. Start today.

Read More