Running Hard? Stop and Smell the Roses: Time Management and Sanity Strategies

More and more often these days I keep running up against a theme of “too busy”.  People all around me are explaining how busy things are – how difficult it is to keep up – how their organization is saying “yes” to too many things.  They explain, “There used to eventually be a slower time, in which you could catch up, but no longer”.  People are frazzled and tired.

Well I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised.  Technology is driving the rate of change on a very steep trajectory.  The unintended consequences of technology are costing us all around – we are overwhelmed with information, highly distracted, and prone to disappointing those high expectations of immediate response all around us.

It feels imperative to find effective ways to cope.  I find a few key items are critical for survival, for example:

  1. Getting out of the habit of constantly monitoring email and instead continuously checking email (constant is leaving email up all the time, inviting distraction, whereas continuous is checking it on a regular cadence). Collapsing down email to allow you time to focus on other work (30-45 minutes) is essential.
  2. Triaging email using the 4Ds (Do it in under 2 mins, Dump it, Delegate it, Defer it).
  3. Setting intention about what you can accomplish in a week by planning your calendar.
  4. Using the calendar planning as a negotiation tool, meaning if I take on more work something else has to give or I’ll be working at night. This forces a good priority discussion.
  5. Standing for the quality of your work by not working under constant overload, which requires ever-creative skill at negotiating priorities.
  6. Finding at least 1-2 x a day when you intentionally slow yourself down to see and appreciate with childlike “wonderment” something around you.

The first five coping strategies are from Kwela’s Get Organized workshop, which has been delivered to thousands of professionals with great success.  (At the end of this post, I’ve inserted links to our “Tips” series on time management.)

The last one on the list, however, is new.  This is one that when I first heard it, I immediately said to myself “that sounds a bit woo-woo and new age-ist”, and I quickly concluded that it wasn’t for me.  It couldn’t possibly work.

Then I tried it. I was wrong!

Forcing myself to stop and intentionally take another look, not just a passing glance, at a beautiful vista or stopping to gaze at the vibrant colour of a Japanese plum tree, juxtapositioned against the blue sky or even to stop and smell the sweet fragrance of a pretty rose can have a dramatic effect.  It somehow slows down all of the frenetic energy of our everyday “rushing” and “doing”.  Somehow just that simple act delivers a welcome reprieve for the nervous system.

Just with intentional action, I created more space and room, to just breathe and be.  It somehow shocks you back into “living” where you realize the work will still be there, but there is just this moment to savour.

I suspect you may be skeptical, but just try it.  It takes only seconds, or even a minute if you can spare it.  It can’t hurt to try it, right?

Next time you find yourself spinning with “to dos” or anxious with anticipation of all of the work you must do, stop and force yourself to take 1 minute to appreciate something of natural beauty.  Pick something, anything – a flower, a cloud, the vast sky, the deep blue ocean – and look at it as if you were a 4 year old discovering it for the first time.  Its appearance, its smell, its shape, its feel – what are you attracted to, what are you drawn to?  What does it feel like to touch?

If it works better, pick something you know loved as a child, as you will easily connect to what you once appreciated about it as a child.  Then just watch how it helps soothe that nervous system stimulation.

For even more in-depth discussion of this idea of how “stopping and smelling the roses” can improve our lives, check out this article:

How Taking Time to Smell the Roses Can Help Us Find Fulfillment

You can learn more about Kwela’s Time Management workshop here.

Joanne Spalton, Senior Consultant

Links to more of Kwela’s detailed tips on Time Management:

Tip #1: What’s the Problem Anyway

Tip #2: What Do You Have Control Over

Tip #3: Learning to See No As a Negotiation

Tip #4: How to Overcome the Tyranny of the Urgent

Tip #5: Utilizing a Process Method Like the 4Ds

Tip #6: How to Prioritize Effectively

Tip #7: Calendarizing Important Work

Tip #8: Avoid Multi-Tasking

Tip #9: Let Go of Perfection

Tip #10: How to Manage Interruptions

Tip #11: The Most Effective File Structures

To see all of our blog posts on Time Management, click on the “Blog” header at the bottom of our site, then scroll down on the left and click on the Time Management topic.