What You Should Never Be To Busy To Do

The test of your yoga practice? When life is busy.

In less that two days, I’m flying off to Minneapolis for the week for non-yoga work. My organization puts on an annual conference and next week is the week. It promises to be a lot of fun, as I get really excited to meet up in person with so many people that I only know online. It is also is guaranteed to be many long hours of work, lots of logistics to coordinate, plus the inevitable problems that arise when you run an event.

If you’ve ever planned a big event, especially with a very small staff or group of people, you can imagine that the past few weeks have been a bit busy to say the least. It’s really been a challenge for me to keep up my yoga practice amidst work, teaching, volunteering and trying to get a decent amount of sleep in there too.

I think this is a pretty universal challenge in for our culture as a whole. Whether you’re trying to keep up an exercise routine or consistent yoga practice or anything that is important for you to prioritize in your life, it is a constant puzzle to try to piece together time to do it while also taking care of your responsibilities (work, family, etc.).

So this has been a time for me to really test how I can keep up my yoga practice in the face of a long to-do list. I’ve become more aware of the traps I can easily fall into. One is to tell myself to just work harder. I hunker down over the laptop determined to just keep cranking. Turns out, taking time to relax instead of working harder actually increases your productivity.

The other trap is sleep. Or rather, lack of it. At night, I’ll be determined to get something or other done and then suddenly realize the time. That means being more tired the next day or not getting up as early as I’d hoped, and then feeling all the more behind. You can probably see how this circle continues. When I let myself get overly tired, I have less motivation to unroll my mat and feel uninspired when it comes to planning a class to teach. Being exhausted leaves me without the energy to enjoy when I do have those periods of free time, and thus, enjoying life less.

I’ve come up with a number of ways that are helping me avoid these potential pitfalls. One is making a yoga date every week for at least one time that I am going to either go to practice with a friend or go to a yoga class. Having a wonderful buddy who I know I won’t bail on is key to keeping me to my commitment. It also gives me a fun part of my day to look forward to and that motivates me to focus and complete the work at hand.

Taking small breaks is my other new behavior. If there’s “no time” to practice that day, I try to take 15-30 minutes to do a short practice or a ten minute walk around the neighborhood. Instead of berating myself up about not getting it together enough to do a more advanced practice or longer walk,  I have to take the different approach of, “Well, what practice can I do today?”, and congratulate myself when I make time to include yoga and movement into my day, however short the time.

Another way around my traps is do let go of doing everything I want to do. I’ve accepted that my house will not be clean until after the conference. I took a break from managing any volunteer events this month. Yes, these are things that I feel like I should be able to handle along with everything else, but the reality is temporarily pulling back from activities that are not as important gives me more time and energy to devote to the things that are more of a priority.

But however busy I am, I know the one thing that I never want to be too busy to do: taking that moment to make a connection to something outside of myself. I can give a friend a call or text just to say hi. When I have a big inbox of emails to respond to, that still means I can take the extra minute to add a “thank you” or “hope you had fun skiing last weekend” to the message. When one of my cats decides to sit on top of me, effectively making it impossible for me to type, I can take that as a sign that I do have time to spend a few minutes doing some kitty cuddling.

Is there still a long way for me? Yes. Case in point: it is almost 11:30pm when I’m typing this and I really needed to be in bed sleeping already. Yet every time I side-step one of my traps, my practice gets that much stronger.

I’d love to hear from you! What pitfalls do you run into when life gets busy and how do you avoid them?


Don’t Do List

To-Do Don’t Do List

I just got through reading Chris Guillebeau’s terrific book: The Art of Non-Conformity. The book is full of practical tips not just for having a non-conventional job, but for living a meaningful life regardless of what work you do.

Time, or rather, the lack of it, is one of the biggest challenges people often complain about or use as an excuse to not do something. In his book, Chris explores ways you can make time in your day for things that are important. One tip he suggests is making a “Don’t Do” list. Make a list of things that you do that drain your energy and do not contribute to your well-being or how you want to live your life.

Of course, there are some draining tasks (i.e. washing the dog, paying bills, etc.) that you won’t be able to drop from your life. However, aim for finding 3-5 things on your list that you can eliminate.

Some possible things that might be on your list

  • Constantly checking email
  • Watching a TV show you don’t really care about
  • Unproductive meetings
  • A volunteer commitment you do not enjoy

Here’s a few on my Don’t Do List that I’m working to eliminate (or at least cut back on):

  • Mindlessly surfing the internet
  • Staring into my closet trying to decide what to wear
  • Trying to stay current on reading numerous blogs and email newsletters

So in the last week, I’ve been doing a few things to help with my not doing. I unsubscribed to a number of email newsletters that I either don’t read or just aren’t particularly pertinent or useful to me. For the newsletters I do get, I set up a filter in my email to send these newsletters directly into a “newsletters” folder and skip my inbox. When I have time to catch up on some reading, I can go to the folder and read then. Similarly, I went into my Google Reader, where I have a list of blogs I read and eliminated many from the list and put the ones I read most often at the top of my list.

The closet indecision? Going through my clothes and giving things I no longer wear nor want to Goodwill helped, as did organizing my drawers a bit so I can easily see my options.

For me, the hardest on the list is limiting my internet time. One technique suggested by many people is to set a timer for internet time. For example, set the clock for thirty minutes to check email and after that, closing your email and moving on to the next task. Another strategy I try when I have writing or other non-internet-related computer work is to work at a cafe and purposely not sign on to the wifi so I’m not tempted by the distraction of Facebook or the latest tweets coming in. It’s an ongoing challenge for sure–I easily can fall back into the internet time-suck!

This not-doing is often a lot harder than the to-do list, but it is pretty humbling to see how much time I spend on things that don’t really matter. Yet it’s incredibly satisfying to simply consciously drop doing something. It’s freeing to know that nothing will happen if I miss reading an article or two or don’t respond to an email for a couple of more hours. Best of all, there is more time in my day for the dos and the simply being.