So, it is New Years Day, time to be thinking of resolutions, plan or priorities for 2016. However, I guess as we bring in the new it can’t hurt to take a moment to reflect on the past. So these are my reflections on what I have learnt this year and want to take forward to 2016.
Reflection 1 – Be thankful, for what you have
We’ve faced our challenges this year, as I guess have most of us. After all that is what life is all about – the good, the bad and the ugly. However, our big scare has all turned out to be ok despite not looking like it would be. That alone has made me realise how truly lucky we have been and how much we have to be thankful for, as things might not have turned out so well.
Often though, we don’t take the time to realise or empathise with those around us that might be facing their own difficulties. It is easy to be so caught up with your own day to day issues that you forget to open your mind to those around us. Yet we have so much ability to make a difference to other people’s lives.
My favourite author is JK Rowling. She gave the commencement speech at Harvard in 2008 titled ‘The fringe benefits of failure and the power of imagination’. I would recommend taking 20 minutes out and listening to it. Ted talks have a recording here.
I found it really moving when I first heard it and one quote really stuck.
I took the picture at Newton-by the Sea in the North East a couple of years ago at a wedding. I still remember the feeling the view gave me, of the possibilities of what could be. It seemed fitting for this quote, of our ability to open our minds to the experiences of others.
Reflection 2 – Remember time is your most precious commodity
Life is so busy, between working full-time, family, friends and other commitments. I have for a long time had an ongoing internal dialogue with myself that runs along the lines of, “I don’t have enough time. When am I going to get that done?” In fact my mind likes to run repeatedly over large lists of all the things I perceive that I haven’t done that, I really should have done by now. That constant feeling of not having time to get things done, is a source of pressure and at times I can find it overwhelming.
Over 2015 I spent a lot of time thinking about time management and productivity. Basically, how I could do more with less, to get more stuff done. In the summer, I got an audio book wrote by a guy called Scott Elbin who is a leadership coach in the states. It is called Overworked and Overwhelmed, and with a title like that it caught my eye! The book is essentially about how to work at developing mindful leadership in a fast paced world.
A lot of the principles are quite straight forward but what is interesting about it, is that is takes a different take on mindfulness. Mindfulness is all about connecting with the world, people and places in the hear and now. Basically, it is about being present – not dwelling on the past or thinking about the future. However, this concept is at odds with all the traditional thinking about time management, which is primarily about setting clear goals and then scheduling your time. This book points out that you actually need to do both together.
Part of this is to set goals and have a road map. Elbin has a tool for this that he calls ‘the Life GPS‘. However, all this really is, is taking some time out to reflect on where you are at, and where you want to go. Then you use this roadmap to direct how you use your time. The mindfulness aspect comes from freeing you up from ‘the tyranny of the present’ and allowing yourself the mental space to be able to ‘show up at your best’ in the hear and now.
When you have your roadmap, you can still use traditional scheduling techniques. I have come across a story in different forms that is know as ‘Big Rocks’ that sums this up well. Scott Elbin also has a take on this story in his book. I am not sure who originally came up with the tale (although I suspect it might have been Stephen Covey) but it ultimately about how we go about scheduling our time, and reminds us about the value of that time.
It goes something like this:
“A teacher found himself frustrated by the students in his class not submitting their work on time. He heard lots of stories about how busy they were and how much they had to get done, and also some pretty wild excuses about unexpected events and calamities that had befell them. So, he got to thinking about how he could explain what they needed to do, to get things done.
So next time in class, he stood at the front with a large open topped jar and a pile of rocks. He proceeded to fill the jar with the rocks and when they got to the top, he asked, “Is the jar full?” To which, the students responded with a resounding, “Yes!” He replied, “Are you sure, and pulled a bag of small pebbles out of his bag and tipped them into the jar where they worked themselves in between the spaces between the rocks.
When he asked if the jar was full this time his students had sussed him out and one shouted out ‘No!” “Quite right” he said and then added sand to the jar, which went into the remaining bits of space. Finally, he opened a bottle of water and tipped that into the jar too.”
The morale of the story, is that if you want to get the things that matter most to you done, that
a) you need to decide what those things are
b) you need to schedule your own ‘big rocks’ first
because if you don’t your time will be filled up with all the little things and you will never get to the things that mattered to you in the first place.
Reflection 3 – The benefits of creativity
Over 2015, although probably nearer towards the end of it I have noticed a wider cultural shift towards embracing mindfulness and wellbeing. This is even manifesting itself in current trends, such as the rise of the colouring books targeted towards the adult market. I mean who could have guessed that the best selling book on Amazon in 2015 would be Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom?
I am probably too serious, especially about work. No, well scrap that I am definitely too serious. I seem to have become steadily more serious over time. To be honest, I think that an undesirable outcome of focusing on time management and scheduling can be a stifling of creativity.
See you next year, Hayley x