By Devin Fedor, Director Learning & Organizational Development at Mary Washington Healthcare
Each year I select word or simple phrase to guide me through the next twelve months. This is not a resolution to lead me down a path of all or nothing thinking. Rather, it serves as a motivator, a reminder, a lens to evaluate decisions, and a kick in the pants when I need it. This year I chose “make space”.
As I sat down to unravel the year behind me and think about what I wanted most in the year to come, it was just that – more space. Space to do things that challenge me, showcase my talents, help me grow, tap into my creativity, and bring me joy. As humans we allow so much of our lives, time, and energy to be consumed and controlled by other people and things. Our jobs, our family and friends, social media, Netflix…and the list goes on. Too often, our days leave us feeling stressed, frustrated, frazzled, unproductive and unfulfilled. The wonderful and painful reality is that we have a choice. We can choose to continue down the overscheduled, overwhelming path we are on, or we can choose to make space.
I know. Easier said than done. Here are some practices that are helping me make space.
- Get centered. Start and end your day intentionally by asking the right questions. Greg Nelson, author of The Strategic Stop recommends implementing a morning practice of reflection with the following prompts:
- I am focused on…
- I am grateful for…
- I will let go of…
Susan David, Ph.D., author of Emotional Agility encourages asking a single question before going to bed: “What did I do today that was worthwhile?”. By incorporating these two practices consistently, you can get clear on what is important heading into the day and assess how well you spent your time at the end.
- Kick out the clutter. To make more space for the important things, you must first identify the not-so-important things that are taking up your time. Professional Organizer, Barbara Hemphill says “clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions”. I am pretty sure she was talking about physical clutter, but the sentiment still applies. Look at your meeting schedule to determine what is necessary and what you can/should say no to. Examine how you are spending your downtime and assess if it is helping you achieve your goals and/or contributing to your overall wellbeing. Start getting rid of the physical and metaphorical clutter taking up space that could be better used for something else.
- Plan ahead. I don’t know about you, but if it isn’t on my calendar, it probably isn’t getting done. Now it is time to fill up the space you created by replacing the clutter with more valuable activities. Have you been neglecting your morning walk? Put it on your calendar. Guilty of always eating a less than healthy lunch on the fly? Set aside time each day for a nutritious meal. Need more time for strategic thinking and planning? Block time dedicated to focus on it. Interested in picking up a new hobby or learning a new skill? Sign up for a class on a specific date and time. You get the idea.
- Make good decisions. When making space, you don’t want to schedule out every minute of every day. You need free time and flexibility in your day. The key is making good decisions about what do with that time. What is your go to when you have a free hour or a long weekend with nothing planned? Rest and relaxation are good and necessary. Hours of mindless scrolling through social media and regular late-night series binges, not so much. The choices you make about how to fill your downtime become habits. Build good habits that make you proud to answer the question, “What did I do today that was worthwhile?”.