Slow. Right…………….Down.

17 Apr

You know what’s great: Balance. And you know what’s missing: Balance. So let’s bring it back.

I’ve had many a moment recently where I purposefully sat down in the office, in a cafe, on the train, in my flat but on a different chair than usual – with a pen, some blank paper and the intention to make sense of what was going on in my life. I started making all sorts of lists (I like making lists) with the big things that I want to sort out – in my job and in my personal life – and with all the little tasks that make up those big things. And just as I got going, I got distracted, did something else for a bit and when I tried to get back to ‘Sorting out my life’, I wasn’t really feeling the swing anymore. Then I started writing an email that I had meant to write for ages, then I suddenly realised I needed to write a speech for my mum’s birthday so I stopped writing that email. Then I suddenly realised I had no more chick peas at home (Panic!), so I quickly put together a shopping list, totally forgot the speech and accidentally closed down the document without saving it….. And at the end of the day, I would have 25 half written emails, some of them with some content but with no recipient (who was that for again?), some with a name in the ‘To’ line but without any content (what did I want to write again?) , with about 15 stickies, 17 To Do Lists and about 15728 browser tabs open, while Twitter alerts kept popping up in the right hand corner of my screen reminding me every 30 seconds that somebody might have just said something super funny that I couldn’t possibly miss.

Enough, I said! ENOUGH!

This is just stupid. Not just stupid but actually harmful. Not only do you not get anything done, you also stress about not getting anything done, so you don’t sleep, which damn sure as hell won’t make you any more productive the next day. So you’re stressed and on top of that you become unhappy – well, I did anyway. Because I couldn’t get to the bottom of anything anymore. All this noise, all these bits of something, all this ‘let’s do something for 5 seconds and then something else and then…’ actually made me borderline depressed, because everything felt so fluctuant, without any real depth. So, the other day on the train, something great happened. My dongle didn’t work (this is NOT a euphemism) and I was OFFLINE. For a whole 5 hours. On my laptop and on my phone (as 3G was also having a fit), so I sat down again and tried to get to the bottom of my little niggles here and there. And I came to the grand conclusion that what I was missing was Balance.

With Balance I mean a healthy mix of many things in my life, in various doses, at various times but with depth, focus, attention and all for one single reason: To make me happy.

And it goes something like this:

Love makes me happy, but as I am not ‘in love’ right now, I happily spend and get all my love through friends and family. They make me happy, because they matter to me, I matter to them – and they’re ace. So I call them or go and see them. Or I watch films with Ryan Gosling and try and pretend to be whichever opposite female.

A healthy body makes for a healthy mind. My body doesn’t like wheat. My head does, but it really screws me up. But that’s old and we’ve known that for a while. But what’s also true is that I feel much better without dairy, sugar, caffeine, meat and technically alcohol. I know that because I did a detox last year and have never felt better in my skin. As it’s up to me what ends up in my fridge / on my plate / in my tummy, I buy stuff that is good for my body, so it’s good for my mind too. This is a 85% rule by the way. Being of the female kind, I do have my days when I need – and I mean NEED – my chocolate, Haribo, crisps and wine. And then I have them. All at once if necessary. But that actually happens less often than I thought. And I certainly don’t let these restrictions unnecessarily spoil a night out  – I am not insane. Exercise-wise I’ve also come to realise that a good mix of outdoor running and indoor Yoga / stretching is a good balance for me. In general, I am not one for high impact stuff, so slowing down usually makes for a better workout for me. Unless I have had too much Haribo during the day and have the energy of a mad 7 year old.

A healthy mind makes for a happy soul. I love learning, finding out new things, knowing stuff, laughing my head off, listening to music – Some of this I get at work, but my work head and my personal head are not one and the same, so I make sure that I leave my work head at work and spend some time in the evening nourishing my personal head. That comes by way of watching a good film / series, listening to podcasts while cooking, reading, taking a bath and listening to classical music or writing this blog.

Focus – There is nothing more frustrating and stressful than losing focus. I am much better at something when I give it my full attention, so no more ’10 things at once’ and ‘I just quickly do this’. I like to know and see the big picture, the road map and the small tasks in front of me. I need to be able to look at them by way of maps, lists or some kind of voodoo drawing that I’ve recently developed. I am like that. I’ve still not figured out the best way of illustrating everything, but I am working on it. And I try and finish one task and then do the next. As much as I can anyway. And not just that, I actively structure my  day so I can cope with the work load and the various dynamics of certain tasks. I end each working day with a realistic To Do list for the next – I try not to put things on there that in total would take more than 5 hours as I need to allow for 3 hours of ‘extra stuff that just happens’. I start each day with 1 hour of quick and easy tasks, like emails. Then I do personal stuff for a bit. Then I go to the office with only bigger tasks at hand. If things are of a scale or kind that I need quiet, I do not go to the office, but either work from home or whichever space I need to be in to be able to focus. Then I work my way through the To Do list. Then at the end of the day, I really go through and empty my mind and everything I didn’t get done, I put on a To Do list (which actually stays the same size that way) for the next day so I don’t end up worrying all evening about doing stuff or forgetting about something. There is always another To Do List – the ones where the big tasks are on. I never put more than one of those tasks on my Daily To Do list – it’s a nice surprise if I manage to tackle more than one in a day, but usually very unlikely. Oh, and I have also switched off Twitter alerts. And I ignore the little red numbers signalling ‘You Have Mail’. And although I seem to have a Pinterest account – it is one social media phenomenon I happily ignore. Nonterest.

And if I am not at work, I try to totally not be at work. When I am in the bath, I AM IN THE BATH. When I listen to a podcast, I try and give it my full attention so it’s not just background noise. And if I keep switching off, I rt……of course, I just interrupted this blog for a 30 mins conversation with my old flat mate. I mean there are important things – like this blog – and there are super important things – like catching up on essential gossip…, where was I? … if I keep switching off, I try and find out what’s occupying my mind and deal with it. In general, I just try to be a lot more ‘in the moment’. I know that sounds like an awfully buzzwordy thing to say, but it’s true. If you deal with the right now right now, you don’t have to worry about it 2 hours later. And if you know that during the next meeting you can fully focus on the conversation there and then, you don’t have to deal with it beforehand. Focus and concentration is really nice and satisfying. Funny enough, switching off and ‘not doing anything’ can be really hard work. I have become so attached to my laptop, that it is actually really tough to switch it off and put it away – and not give in to the temptation of the old iPhone multi-something-ability. It’s come to the point where I sometimes have to force myself to go for a walk and leave all gadgets at home. And it can take ages for the calm to sink in, without me making a new To Do list in my head and behind my own back. I can be quite sneaky with that. But I am also quite good at catching myself doing it.

Of course all this needs to be offset with a (un)healthy dose of unexpected stuff that throws you way off track and completely contradicts everything I have just said. Only then is everything truly in balance.


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