I never thought that relentlessly planning for the future would teach me a lesson on being in the moment. But it did.
You see, I’m a list-maker.
I can’t help it, that’s what I do. I use both technology and paper for my task lists.
At work I have a to-do list in my email program. At home I use Gmail’s “tasks” to make (and cross off) personal to-dos. I usually also have a paper list going where I make notes and jot down stuff that didn’t make onto any of the other lists. Oh, and let me not forget the lists on my iPhone, because those literally go everywhere with me.
To me, lists aren’t just about the sense of accomplishment when you Get Things Done. They are about planning for the future.
And in general I believe planning (such as, on the work front, planning your social media management) to be a good thing, since how do you get somewhere if you don’t have a plan for it?
The racing pulse
This past weekend, I had a lot to catch up on (which seems to be a permanent state of affairs these days) so, of course, I made my lists. Before I got started on them on Sunday morning, though, I decided to take some “me” time and have a quiet read while drinking my morning tea.
As I read my book, my mind started racing, and I started thinking of all the things I needed to get done. And since I’m not one who particularly looks forward to having a humungous to-do list on an ongoing basis, my pulse started racing. I could practically feel it slip on its Vibram five-fingers and take off.
A “pulse racing” me is not a happy me, and weekends shouldn’t be unhappy. But this time, I surprised myself. I told myself to calm down and literally visualized a black screen covering the to-do list (which, in my mind’s eye, was written in blue ink on a yellow legal pad).
I set my iPhone alarm for an hour or so later (the time I thought I deserved to have uninterrupted with my book) and then, when it went off, put the book down and started on my list.
Being in the moment
Through the day, I concentrated on the task at hand. I didn’t get distracted by playing on Facebook or Twitter, and I didn’t get sidelined by HauteLook or Rue La La’s sneaky pop-ups on my iPhone/iPad re: the sales du jour. I didn’t even think of all that I had left to do.
I just did what I was doing at that time. I focused as much as I could by not just concentrating on, but actually enjoying, what I was doing; by giving it my full attention.
Later that evening, when I looked through my various lists, there were certainly a couple of things that remained. But, to be fair, I’d put them on Sunday’s list without them necessarily having to be done on Sunday.
And I was amazed at how much I got done – because, believe me, my list was looong! – by simply being in the moment. And without feeling stressed about “how much” I’d had to do (which is usually what happens).
I don’t think this would qualify as being heretically productive – and I certainly take the H-P route every now and again – but it worked for me.
On Sunday, I realized that no matter where we are, no matter what our careers, being in the moment is one of the most important things we can do (or be).
Because when we are truly in “the moment,” we truly seize the day. And that is when we really, almost unconsciously, set the stage for what is to come… and when, I think, things start to fall into place the way we never imagined they would.
So… not to get all new-agey on you (on a Tuesday, no less!), but that was a bit of an epiphany for me this weekend. Not as dramatic, perhaps, as Erica Allison’s was not so long ago, but an epiphany nonetheless. And, being me, I wanted to share it with you.
Image: bob in swamp via Flickr, CC 2.0
What was the last epiphany you had? Was it something so simple you had to pinch yourself? Or did the mysteries of the universe reveal themselves? Either way, do share, I’d love to know!
@hackmanj Thanks for sharing, Joe!
@shonali you’re welcome. Have a good one :)
@hackmanj You too, my friend!
@shonali Whiteboards rule! :)
@mark_harai Thanks so much!
@shonali Happy Friday miss!
@Mark_Harai Back at you! How are you?!
@shonali All good Shonali, just trying to get back in the swing of things : ) And you?
I live in the moment, so much so it took me a few days to get here, but I am here. Better late than never, right. ;)
@TheJackB Haha! Yes, indeed, as evidenced by my own late reply to you!
@voxoptima Thanks so much for sharing!
@geoffliving Thank you so much for sharing (and the comment!).
I have to do this almost daily. When you described trying to read and your mind going 1,000 miles a minute, I empathized. But you do just have to take a deep breath and focus. Focus is my big New Year’s resolution. Let’s get ‘er done. Because if you take one thing at a time, you’ll accomplish so much more.
@ginidietrich I remember you writing about that. I had three words to focus on last year… I can’t even remember if I had three words for this year. :(
Whoa; deep indeed……..
Living in the moment is all something we can do a better job of and I try to make a conscious effort to recognizing those moments and being ‘in it.’
Good advice ma’am; hope all is well.
@bdorman264 I think you do a really good job of living in the moment. That is, when you’re not getting lost in swamps… ;)
Well this is very Zen. :)
When I am confused or busy or upset, I try to focus very much on the moment and presence. Just do the next right thing. That’s a very easy way to stay calm and focused while making sure I am paying attention to details (typos aside).
@geoffliving @KenMueller @bdorman264 I am zen until the mets bullpen comes into the game. Then I want to get a rocked propelled grenade and shoot up the cars on the freeway just for kicks.
@geoffliving “Typos aside” – ROFL!
I’ve found deep breathing helps. I need to re-remember my yoga lessons and do more of that, I think. And I’m going to print these words out, Geoff – “just do the next right thing” – and put them up on my wall. Thank you!
For me, I find that the list helps keep me on track because there are some items that are not necessarily “must do” (i.e. a proposal or action item for a client) but are more “should do” or “would be good if I could do”…so those items, along with the must do items, make up my list, and I try to get most of those done on the weekdays so that I can tune out “mostly” and be with my family on weekends. Oh, there is work that has to be completed, but I try to save that for early Sunday morning when I usually have a few hours to myself. Once the family is home, I try to give them my attention.
And I’ve found that when I look at my to-do list on the weekends, very few of those items are “must do”. Most of them can wait a few hours, or even days.
Wanted to let you know this resonated with me, and I had a similar epiphany last month on my vacation. http://clairification.blogspot.com/2012/07/why-managing-information-overload.html#more
It’s important to unplug every now and then, and realize the list will still be there when we get back. The world keeps on spinning, regardless.
@Claire Axelrad What a kind comment, thank you! I particularly like how, in your post, you phrase your learnings as your gift to your readers. That is a gift, I think; because loyal readers can feel guilty if they don’t comment, don’t visit, etc. (that’s how I feel with @bdorman264 for example… I feel bad if I don’t comment on his blog, else how would he know I was there?). So that’s a really terrific way of putting it.
Great post, Shonali! I have the same reaction to my to-do lists as you do if I’m not careful. I usually break the big things up into smaller tasks that I can check off as I go along. Then, my big task (like a 20 page paper) turns into various, easier steps that I can confidently check off — and that lets me relax later on. As long as I can see some valuable progress, then I can let myself relax.
I mainly make my lists in my trusty Moleskine, but I’ve been known to keep them on my iPhone and computer, too. There’s something so rewarding about crossing things off physically, though!
@annedreshfield I think jasonkonopinski has a moleskine too. But I digress…
Oh, this reminds me! Have you seen hackmanj office? He’s got a HUGE white board in it!
@Shonali Darn skippy, I have a Moleskine! @annedreshfield
@Shonali If I was to design my office again it would have MORE whiteboards. :)
@hackmanj A man after my own heart!
@Shonali @hackmanj Or chalkboard walls! *swoon*
@jasonkonopinski @Shonali my son would love that, chalkboard paint is pretty awesome. Hmm. :)
@hackmanj @jasonkonopinski @Shonali Moleskines rock! At the old Livefyre office we had whiteboard paint on the office walls — same concept as chalkboard paint, just for whiteboards! Our new office just has glassed-in offices so you can scribble everywhere if you want, as long as you erase it. :)
Very nice post, Shonali! I used to fall into the category of the “over-achiever” who must get everything done on her to-do list. That only resulted in personal disappointment that I brought upon myself– probably a Midwestern thing…
So, even though I keep many lists (on my iPhone as well; at the office; and on my calendar), I often start the day with a small list of what needs to get done *that day*. If I can cross off a few items from that list, then I can take them off my other lists and then they’re not as long as they were before. I’ve learned that the small accomplishments help make the most out of all I want to achieve and those little victories keep me going :)
@Krista You’re way too smart, missy! ;) And that “Midwesterner” comment made me laugh!
Enjoyed this insight, Shonali! Thanks for sharing :)
@tressalynne Thank you, Tressa!
Very valid points, Shonali, and good advice for us all.
It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by the “oughta-dos” and wind up not accomplishing the “have-to-dos.” And, in the process, missing out on the little wonders that make life worthwhile.
You’ve heard my favorite Gibran quote numerous times: “In the dew of little things, the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”
@KirkHazlett I could stand to hear that fabulous quote one more time. :) Thank you!!!