Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Slowing Life Down, Part I

I apologize, but I’m about to go on one of my obsessive streaks. The topic? Slowing down my life. I gotta. I’m scaring myself!

If you haven’t noticed, I’m on a quest to slow my life down. It gets to a point that one becomes afraid one is going to have a heart attack if one doesn’t slow down. One starts to continually feel a breath away from hyperventilating. That’s not to say my life is horribly more stressful than anyone else’s, it’s just to say I don’t yet have the skills to do life slower.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? Or with a similar quest?

Part of my problem is that I’ve always ignored talent. Disregarded it as a factor. After all, I’ve seen plenty of students without talent far surpass those with talent, just because they could work smarter. In fact, talent has always seemed like a detriment in my students. The more talent, the less work skills they have. I don’t know why.

So, I’ve always focused on doing more than anyone else. I can work longer and harder. It’s about the only thing I can control, you know?

But you know what? The work ethic of generations past just doesn’t work anymore, because the world never stops. We can’t work longer than others, because everyone is incessantly working. I wonder if there is/is going to be an increase of heart attacks, because of our constant-on society, in thirtysomethings. The internet took off when we were in college, and the only way we know how to live life is to deal with this incessant ... information clutter, technological clutter, to-do list clutter. How can we deal with the constant feeling of things left undone? How can we cope with putting our head on the pillow every night, knowing full well that we didn’t do x, y, and z?

I know part of my problem is I’m self-employed, and it’s extraordinarily difficult to feel like everything’s done. And I can’t close my door at the end of the day--my business literally takes up nearly every room in the house. (I’m trying to carve us out a living room, but right now we only have our bedroom and the kitchen free and clear.)

I picked up Find Your Focus Zone: An Effective New Plan to Defeat Distraction and Overload a few days ago. Here’s what she says in the Introduction:

You and I live in a 24/7 culture, and someone is always upping the ante. New technology makes you more productive but pressures you to pick up the pace. You have a new cellphone? Good. Now, your boss can reach you on your day off. Wireless PDA, huh? Excellent. We’ll expect e-mails, too. Mini-PC? Even better. We’ll instant-message you those files ... Whether you work inside or outside your home, you juggle a schedule of constant demands and always-on electronics. Multitasking is rampant. For better or worse, we’re rewiring our brains for what the technology industry now calls "continuous partial attention."


In the digital age of distraction, we function at new levels of stimulation and anxiety. The Internet spews information like a fire hose, but to digest information we need to sip it through a straw. Overwhelmed and overloaded, we have no time to process or reflect. Sunday is not a day of rest, but an attempt to catch up and clear your clutter. Old ways of paying attention can’t keep up. We need new tools.

So today marks the beginning of my quest. Any tips? Do you feel the pressure, too? How do you deal?

5 bonus scribbles:

StarvingWriteNow 8/22/2007 05:16:00 PM  

Okay, girl, I've told you before and I'll tell you again. The only secret you need is a single word. It's magic, it's marvelous!

The word?

NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Okay, now go into your bathroom or wherever and practice in front of a mirror. And when you're vacuuming. And when you're mixing yourself a drink or mowing the grass or cleaning your closet. Let NO be your mantra. Let NO be your guide.

I love no. In fact, my local school is a NO school, which totally rocks. North Olmsted. NO. It's a match made in heaven.

You can even make NO into a song. Just take any song you like and insert NO as many times as humanly possible.

You'll feel free, happy, etc etc etc...

writtenwyrdd 8/22/2007 11:48:00 PM  

No is a brilliant answer. Just say NO! A lot.

Okay, try this one. It's a baby step, but most people find this just as hard as deliberately peeing yourself. I know this because, during a kidney function test, they wanted me to pee while being scanned and lying on a table. I just couldn't do it.

So, off the tangent: Do not answer the phone when it rings. Just refuse. Get over the guilt and remind yoruself you don't have to answer it.

And you can remove instant messaging and block work addresses from home, heh heh.

Bernita 8/23/2007 08:24:00 AM  

Another stress is realizing that by the time you learned the new "rules" with the ever-advancing technology - they've changed them.

spyscribbler 8/23/2007 09:36:00 AM  

I should practice that, Starving! That's good advice, if only I can say it to myself now and then!

Written, you're so right! I haven't answered the phone in years. In fact, I only check my voice mail about once a week. No kidding.

Ugh, isn't that the truth, Bernita?

OpenChannel 8/24/2007 12:49:00 PM  

I can SOOOO relate to this. I tend to take on WAY too much and then go into overwhelm.

My husband says this: Every time someone asks you to do something that will add one more thing to your plate (no matter HOW interesting or exciting it may seem), say "Let me get back to you on that." Never answer yes or no right away. Then step back, check in with yourself, and see if your plate can handle it. Then practice saying NO thank you.

A few tricks I've tried: Pick a day or two from your week and SCHEDULE NOTHING on those days. Yes, this is really hard for me, but it's so awesome to have an entirely free day.

Make a physical PLATE on your computer (it can just be a Word document). Fill it with words for the things in your life. If they are LARGE projects, make them LARGE words. So, say one is getting married. PLAN WEDDING would probably take up at least 1/5 of the plate. So, when your plate is FULL you can actually see it and say, wow, no more room on my plate.

I JUST turned down a very cool teaching gig. I SO wanted to participated as it's a new program. However, I knew I couldn't. There's a saying: Opportunities can be obstacles. Just because there is a really great opportunity in front of you, doesn't mean you should take it. It may simply be a way of the universe helping you to get clear about what it is you REALLY want.

Sorry for rambling... this is a huge issue for me as you can tell!