Regular readers will be well aware that I recently got a puppy, and that she is keeping me busy. I missed having a dog, especially when going for walks through the leaves on bright autumn days like today. People look at you strangely when you are walking alone in the woods without a dog. So much so that, on occasion, I have taken to whistling for my imaginary dog before disappearing around a large oak tree just to make other, legitimate, dog walkers accept me more readily.
Daisy’s arrival, and the numerous time consuming tasks that have arrived with her, has coincided with the most dramatic spike in new enquiries at work. I can never remember a time when I had so few gaps in my diary for weeks ahead. Sometimes I have to turn new clients away, which is incredibly uncomfortable. When you work for yourself new people always feel extremely valuable because, somewhere within you, you wonder when they will stop coming altogether, leaving you destitute and out on the streets.
Being busy is great, but it’s easy to be stretched beyond the point at which, instead of getting more done, you are less effective in the areas that really matter.
Years ago I was having some photos taken for a music project and the photographer told me that creative people, when posing for photos, tend to look up instead of down. I think it’s true. Apart from there being so much to see in the sky there is also an enormous amount of space. When we have space we are open to possibility, to thought, and to our true self.
There’s a simple matrix I use when I work with people who struggle to prioritise or feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things to do in their lives. It requires thinking about the difference between tasks that are urgent and those that are important. An alarming proportion of our time is taken up by doing things which are either urgent but unimportant (ie things that other people want you to do..now) or, worse still, neither urgent nor important (watching videos of cats playing the piano on YouTube). The part of our lives we are most prone to ignoring is the bit which is not urgent but is important. These are our dreams. When we are constantly busy we never get around to them.
Without space to think man would never have managed to get into space.
My friend Ray is retired and I think he spends most days checking the price of paint in his local B&Q. After he stopped working we’d meet up for dinner every six months or so and I would notice that he looked younger as every year went past. It was as if he’d built a time machine. He hadn’t. He was reaping the benefits of being less busy and therefore being able to do fewer, well selected things, properly. That’s easier when you’re retired of course, but it made me think about how we damage ourselves by taking too much on before we reach that stage.
Daisy has prompted a rethink about the way I use my time, because it is not inevitable that we just become more stressed and overwhelmed as new responsibilities fall upon us. Letting go is an option we overlook because we fear the consequences. But it might well be that the consequences of holding on to everything indiscriminately are far worse.