In Pursuit of Life-fullness
"Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful". John Maeda
For a long time, I was proud of my ability to multitask, to expertly juggle my to dos between work, family and personal pursuits. I was getting a lot done, having real impact at work, raising two wonderfully curious and cuddly kids, seeing friends and going out, traveling the world for business and for pleasure, and doing some writing on the side. At work, I was good at painting the vision, bringing people along, and getting s* done. Things started to crumble a little when during one of my employee satisfaction survey I got the feedback that people in my organisation felt they had no life balance, were working too hard, constantly chasing stretched goals and solving complex problems as we were launching and scaling a new business. The fact that we were working across time zones, stretching between Shanghai and San Francisco did not help.
I have always beinga little sceptical about the hyper focus on work-life balance. The lines are blurry and increasingly life is about a portfolio of projects, journeys, which often blend work and life. But the message from my team were there loud and clear. Having stumbled upon "the Energy project" a few weeks before those survey results came in I decided to organise a workshop with my core team. This was a huge success at many levels and created a platform for us to talk about the challenges of our intense journey as well as identifying a few simple actions we could implement to make things better. For most of us, the impact was deeper and lead us to make some changes in our life. For me it was a trigger of change.
This helped me formulate 3 simple things I am trying to practice in my daily life:
Be present in the moment, and enjoy the present without always having in the background "what's next" running.
Focus on what's truly matters or as one of my friend would say don't give a f* to what does not matter.
Deliberately do things which are good for you, mind, body and soul and drop those which are not.
Recently, in my journey towards a simpler better life, I have been asking myself how I can take those practices to the next level. Could I develop a"super power" to be great at the 3 things I have identified ?
Here are some of the discoveries and learnings on my journey towards life-fullness:
1. Be present in the moment: whilst being visibly and physically in the moment is relatively easily achievable (for me it has been avoiding the temptation of looking at digital multi-tasking artefacts), the mindfulness part is harder. I often feel have always many "apps" running in the background of my mind around to dos, ideas, emotions, projects. Meditation has been for me the main lever to learn to focus on one thing, and it is a practice I am building as a muscle. I experiment with different techniques and prompts but I stick to a daily routine (when I get up) and use brief "recalls" of images and mantras (yes! It works for me) to help me get back on track during the day. I'll share more the different techniques I have learned and use in one of my future posts.
2. Focusing on what matters: I try, across all dimensions of my life, to select the 2 or 3 things I want to invest my energy in, based on my priorities and values. When executed carefully this approach is powerful and more effective for me than being constantly trying to triage, deflect and say no. I just try to be explicit about the things I am focusing on. This also relies on delegating and trusting people around you, in your team, family or support network to own things independently. Of course occasionally some important new problem to solve or urgent thing to deliver will come my way but this simple framework really helps declutter my time and life.
3. Do things which are good for you: this seems a simple statement but answering this crucial question " Is this good for my mind, body or soul? when your organise your schedule, activities and respond to solicitations is powerful. Using this criteria I have stopped watching TV, reading free papers or online news (other than the few channels I have specifically selected) and drinking alcohol during the week. When I have a work diner or an event during the week, I choose to leave before 10 pm, and prioritise sticking to a routine where I get up early and meditate and exercise. I have chosen a commute which takes longer but includes a wonderful 20 minutes walk from Euston to Holborn. I block my calendar to be able to attend a Pilate class I like. Lastly, I will always find ways to make time for someone around me, co-worker, team member, family or friend, who needs to have a chat. I have decided this is good for my soul.
Some events or issues throw me off track, at work or at home. I sometimes relax my commitmentand "relapse"... Dropping my multitasking digital artefacts and habits is really hard on some packed days where I run from one meeting or commitment to another. But overall, this obsessive focus on the pursuit of "life-fullness" is changing my life, and the people who matter for me are noticing, which is the most meaningful outcome for me.