Working longer hours and battling ever increasing workloads has become the norm. And with it, the need for space in our lives has been neglected. We have traded the room we have for life and joy for busyness and productivity and found ourselves sold short on the promise of success and the hope of well being.
We must trade it back. But gaining space isn’t just about opening up time, it’s also about what you fill the time with and reducing the need to fill that time at all.
In their 2007 research with overloaded executives, Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy of The Energy Project encouraged executives to create mental and physical space by prioritising relationships and interests outside of work and reorganising work days to utilise natural energy cycles or ‘ultradian rhythms’. During these 90-120 minute periods, our bodies “move from a state of high energy to a physiological trough”. The signs we’ve reached a trough include restlessness, yawning, hunger and difficulty concentrating. Many of us are used to ignoring these signals, so by the end of the day our energy levels are dangerously low. Like a rechargeable battery with the charge light flashing, if we don’t give ourselves the space to top up we end up breaking down.
Here are some questions to ask yourself , all of which are particularly important if you’re setting an example:
Are you taking a full hour, not eating at your desk and frequenting it with relationship?
Tip: Always have a book with you, everywhere you go.
Do you intentionally use every conversation to improve your listening skills? Better listeners have more space in their lives.
Tip: never finish last at a meal (you’re talking too much).
Are you breaking at least every 90-120 minutes to stretch and chat?
Tip: Get fresh air and learn abdominal breathing.
Are you scheduling in the assumption they’ll take at least 25% longer than you think?
Tip: If they’re longer than 90-120 minutes, build in intervals.
Would it be appropriate to turn them off for your email and social media accounts?
Tip: Take a break from any social media that makes you feel inadequate.
Do you know some companies use a check in process to allow attendees to share what’s on their mind to help them tune in and build empathy in the room?
Tip: Some use a traffic light system to visualise how emotionally distracted people are.
Do you encourage yourself and others to remain at work unnecessarily?.
Tip: If you can’t bring yourself to say you want to go home, take up a class (e.g. yoga or an instrument) to give yourself a regular reason to get out.
Are you scheduling enough personal time with those who love you?
Tip: Put date nights with individual members of your family in the dairy, don’t rely on it “just happening”.
Have you turned Sundays into device free days at home?
Tip: Give them to someone to hide to show you’re serious about not using them.
Could you go to bed earlier or, if you’re not an early riser, wake a little earlier?
Tip: Never start difficult conversations after 10pm and never go a whole year without watching the sunrise.
Success does not have to cause overload. Unlike time, space can be created and doing so can not only increase our productivity but, with practice cultivate a more rounded, truly connected life; a far more meaningful form of success.