Making Time for Me in Siena
In a recent post I wrote about decluttering, with a focus on getting rid of ‘stuff’ in the house – you know all those bits and pieces we hang on to and put in a drawer or cupboard, or on the table. When we open the drawer, or cupboard, we see them (sometimes they fall out of the cupboard but we push them back in and shut the door quickly – I remember my mum doing that!), but we know the ‘stuff’ is there, and that one day we will have to do something with it. Getting rid of anything is hard. It’s even harder when it comes to decluttering our personal life…
...how we manage our life is not so much about time as it is about where we place our attention.
I teach Mindfulness and stress management among other things, and something I hear all the time (and I was guilty of it too) is, “I don’t have time…” But is that really true? And time is always an issue, but how we manage our life is not so much about time as it is about where we place our attention.
The reality is, our attention is constantly under siege, and its never more apparent than this time of year when we are getting back into things after a bit of a break over Christmas and New Year. I put a planner together (you can get it here) because I like to keep track of what I am doing but not with the intention of planning everything on a daily basis down to the minute. I did it so I can deliberately factor in time for me. I haven’t been good at that in the past and have had some major health issues as a consequence. So, no more of that! Just as I am, day-by-day, throwing out what is no longer needed in the house, I am taking a close look at how I can be more present, more aware, spend some time ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’ ALL the time. I’m clarifying my priorities, setting intentions and then practising putting my attention on those priorities.
Our busyness and distraction is, for most of us, a result of being this way for a long time. We build up habits and our brain just runs with what it knows. For that to change we have to decide we want something different and teach our brain that this is the way it is from now on. Habits are great while they’re serving our true intentions, or a situation’s real needs. Otherwise we end up going through the motions and missing what’s really important. Like decluttering the house, creating new habits that are good for us, is not easy… but it’s so worthwhile!!
Habits are great while they're serving our true intentions, or a situation's real needs.
In the frantic world we live in with so much demanding our attention, we can be on edge, reactive and scattered; this leaves us feeling off balance, and often running from one thing to another without a sense of having really completed anything. It’s starting to feel like the new normal, and that’s not good. Whether we are at work, at school or at home we need to manage ourselves, and Jeremy Hunter says to do that we need to manage our attention. If we don’t, he says, it undermines our ability to perform, connect, create and innovate. And it definitely undermines our ability to enjoy life. The best way to train our brain is to focus attention. Dr. Jeffery Schwartz, author of You Are Not Your Brain, says that we are what we give our attention to – what we attend to creates our lives.
If we don't manage our attention it undermines our ability to enjoy life.
What are you giving your attention to? In order to take time for yourself and care for you, you have to give your attention to doing just that. A good way to start is to clarify your intentions as this gives you direction in how you want to invest your energy. Ask yourself: “What’s vital for me to put energy in right now?” or “Is this the best use of my energy?” Another way of saying this is: “What am I doing and why am I doing it?”
Ask yourself these questions to clarify what’s important, what your priorities are:
Priorities apply to both short and long - term. In the moment, it means continuing to clean out that cupboard even when you hear your ‘phone ‘ping’ twice; it means taking 10 minutes of quiet time for you even when (especially when) your brain feels like scrambled eggs and your ‘To Do’ list just got longer.
...make it your intention to prioritise rest and renewal.
Over this year of 2017 make it your intention to prioritise rest and renewal. We often give up unstructured downtime without a second thought, letting other demands take over. If you are using a planner it will help you see at a glance if you are creating a schedule that is overly busy – if you are cluttering up your life instead of decluttering! Don’t fill every moment. Be deliberate about building in rest, renewal, and recovery time. Make time for you a priority.