I started a blog a couple of years ago, wrote two long essays and stopped. Why? Because I’d set myself a challenge that I couldn’t commit to. I stalled, because I became ‘too busy’ to write regularly. ‘Too busy’ to do the thing that I’m really passionate about. Not enough time to do the thing that I want to do most. That’s right. Counter productive huh?
So here I am back on the horse – still thinking about the art of enough. It hasn’t gone away in the eighteen months I haven’t written – in fact, the more I work with people as a coach and leadership consultant, the more it resonates.
In particular recently I’ve been thinking about the need for us all to create our own personal boundaries.
The ones that get us up and motivated every day, so that we can be intentionally productive, not just reactive to the every day demands and habits of our digital age.
The ones that stop us looking at our phones first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
The internal boundaries that could give us a rest from the exhausting dissatisfaction of things not being perfect.
And the boundaries that give me permission to carve out time to do stuff that is really important to me but hard to start – like writing a regular blog.
The reason that this work with boundaries is so hard for me – and I think all of us – is that we have to do it ourselves now. Gone are the days when boundaries were set by others.
When we are children our parents set our boundaries for us. The phrase, ‘that’s enough!’ in my house growing up, was usually a signal for me and my siblings to stop thumping one another! Those words ‘That’s ENOUGH!’ contained, protected – simultaneously fierce and comforting. When I started work too, boundaries were set by others. There were sharper edges. A clear beginning and end.
Now, it’s down to me. To each of us individually. Boundaries have entered the domain of personal habits. They’ve gone from hard edged, clear, non-negotiable to amorphous – moveable, self-determined. When I think of boundaries now, I think of a shape made of elastic – constantly moving and changing slightly. It’s variable for each of us, based on our own particular and complex combination of values, motivations, ambition and habits – there’s no one size fits all here. it really is an art form – the art of enough.
So, it’s individualised. And hard. And still essential. Because that wobbly elastic boundary
contains and protects. It keeps us on track and helps us focus on the important things.
I’m going to write each week about how research has helped me with my own art of enough, and what I have learned through my coaching & leadership work and my own practice. Habits, neuroscience, resilience will be in there – and also some work around creativity, motivation, purpose – and how we balance this most challenging of balancing acts – that is being fully ourselves in our age of complexity.
So, to get started, I’m going to focus on protecting time for writing. Here’s what research tells us about protecting time for the stuff that matters most.
1. Know when you do your best thinking – the fancy name for this is ‘biological prime time’ – when are you at your best, most energised and focused. For me this is definitely first thing in the morning. So that’s the time I need to protect.
2. Set three goals. I’m really busy. I have a full and fulfilling work life as a coach and consultant. And yet, I’m not finding time to do the thinking and writing that I want. So, one tool that I know can work is to determine three goals at the start of each week, or even each day – these three goals are the big ticket items that that I want to have achieved by the end of the day / week. Then write down why I want to do them – just a sentence connecting the goal to the reason it’s important to me. This is NOT my to-do list. That will get done anyway. These are the things that I’ll put off unless I identify, name and commit to them.
3. Commit to protecting my best time for my 3 goals. Set aside just ½ hour per day of my best time (in the morning) for my daily goal. (that’ll be writing then!)
So that’s three things that I’ll be doing this week. ½ an hour of my best time for the stuff that really matters to me – every day, so that at the end of each week, I’ll be able to see real progress.
It may mean getting up earlier. It may mean not looking at my phone or emails until a bit later. And although it sounds simple I know for a fact that it’s hard because it’s a new habit. So here goes….
I’ll end with an invitation – if this is something that resonates for you, why don’t you join me? See if you can identify your best time and protect it for something that you really want to do but don’t get round to. I’d love it if you can share your tips, tricks and experiences of doing this too. And I’ll report back next week, with my experience and what I’ve learned from it.
Let’s make the art of enough a collective activity – not just stuff that we’re doing in isolation from each other.