How do we slow down?

Do you ever have those days where you are just pooped? You start yawning at the end of the day and you do not know why? You got a good night sleep (and in my case Chris said I must have slept well because I was not talking in my sleep all night). Yet, somehow you just have no energy whatsoever. I know for me it is often because there are too many items on my to-do list, there are too many things I want and need to do.

There are countless articles, blogs, and videos on the Internet that talk to us about how to slow down, how to prioritize our lives, and how to say no. So if it were so easy, why is it hard for so many of us? I have blogged a few times about wanting to suck the life out of my days. I like to get shit done, but does my relentless nature come at a cost? I hate the days when I am too pooped to run, or when Chris talks me out of a routine that I love (he likes me to have a down day from exercise at least once a week).

Take Monday night for example. It was 80 degrees and sunny and Portland and Chris encouraged me to sit outside with him after work and just enjoy the sun and warmth. It was hard for me to resist, because who knows how long it will be until we have another similar gorgeous day? Yet, even while sitting there enjoying the moment I kept thinking, “I want to go for a run, I want to go for a run.” Why? Why do I drive myself crazy about breaking a routine?

Then last night I was physically and mentally exhausted, so I tried to take a nap after work and I could not get warm and could not fall asleep. Again, no run and it drove me crazy. Part of it for me is I love the euphoria and feeling after a long hard run. I am dripping in sweat and I feel like I truly did something 100% for me and no one else. How much of our day is ever 100% for us? What causes the mental roller coaster for what we want (or think we want) and the choices we make?

I know none of these ideas are new, but the struggle is that sometimes there is so much on our plates that often what gets removed are the things that matter to us most. The things that ground us and keep us going. I know these past few days are anomalies for me. I am relentless and will duke it out with Chris so I can run and catch up on a book, but maybe that is not true for everyone. Maybe it is taking 15 minutes to meditate, or even for those of you with young kids having a long hot shower, and going to the bathroom solo. How do we slow down and make better choices?

Say no to 1,000 things

Everything in the universe at this moment is telling me that my biggest lesson in life is about saying “NO.” Each day I find an article, read a book, have a conversation that reiterates the ongoing dilemma I have with life. What can I truly handle? Have I bitten off more than I can chew? Yes, and no. It really depends. I do know that I need to figure out a way to scale back. Part of that means that I have to say “No” more and more and more. How does one do that when your modus operandi is to help others, solve problems, and to try to make the world a better place one day at a time?

I wanted to share a few of the ideas that have been bombarding my thoughts these last few days. I came across this Steve Jobs quote:

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”

If I could truly do what Jobs said, maybe I could have a fraction of the success he had in life. It has become a common theme for me these past few weeks and months to figure out how to scale back at work and at home and yet life feels like it is a treadmill on the highest speed, and sometimes at the highest incline. At times it feels like the buttons are inoperable and I am not able to adjust to the appropriate speed, so it means running crazy fast and then wondering how long I can sustain the speed.

There was this Fast Company article called: “The Exact Amount of Time You Should Work Every Day” that shared this idea:

Make Realistic To-Do Lists: “We often bog down our to-do lists and make them not feasible for us to accomplish [plus] we underestimate how long it’s going to take us to do something,” says Sexton.

Prioritize tasks. Choose three major tasks to focus on for the day and add other tasks as they pop up throughout the day to a separate list, readjusting your priorities throughout the day if required. It’s a lot easier to look at a list of three tasks than 30. Once you knock off the first three items, choose your next three priorities from your lengthier list.

I do not feel like I have a problem with To-Do Lists, tracking what I need to do, or prioritizing my tasks. I feel it is having too much happening at once. Too many projects to track on, too many deliverables, and not enough time or bandwidth to execute or strategize on how to make it all happen.

How have you learned to say, “No?” Teach me. I want to learn. I want to know what has worked for you.