We’re all busy — whether we work full time in a company, work independently as a freelancer or consultant, if we manage a family, or are looking for work opportunities. Add to that an array of non-work commitments — to community, to political or social causes, to taking care of your health, and more — and it’s easy to feel like there’s not a free moment in the day.
When we look around and see so many people living that way, too, we start to think it’s normal and right. You may think, “Why can’t I do it all and not feel stretched to the breaking point?” Or, you may be aware that it’s too much, yet realize you’re habituated to the intense pace of life and being overcommitted.
All of this busy-ness leaves you starved. Starved of time for thought and reflection. Starved of time to care for your body and soul. Starved of time for fun and refueling. Starved for adequate sleep. Starved for time with people who matter. We’ve all read a lot about stress and the damage it causes. The question is what to do to decrease stress and “feed” yourself so you correct for the malnourishment.
I’m happy to tell you that injecting very small does of creativity into your busy life can have a terrific impact. You may be surprised to hear about some ways this can work.
Take a 2- to 5-minute break once or twice a day. Use that snippet of time to look at the sky. Or, stop and people-watch on a bench. Or, close your eyes, relax your muscles (from the top of your head, to all of your face, down to your shoulders and through your entire body) and then take several long, slow breaths. Exhale slowly and fully. Taking any of these breaks will shift your brain waves from Beta (active alert thinking) to Alpha — when you’re still awake and lucid, but are much more relaxed.
When you get your brain into an Alpha state, using my suggestions or many others you can come up with, your right brain can take over from the left brain (which is used to doing, planning, thinking in linear ways, and being in charge). The right brain can and will access and use some left-brain ideas, but it will do so in new and more innovative ways. And, it's the Alpha stage that brings up new ideas while you shower, or walk the dog — great ideas that seem to spring from nowhere.
Surprise yourself. This is another way to get your right brain activated, and can also be done during short breaks. On your ride back from a meeting, take a turn into a neighborhood you don’t know and see what the houses, shops and gardens look like before you return to your route. At mid-day, head in a different direction than usual and see if there’s a new restaurant/lunch truck/market that offers new options for lunch. Cultivate curiosity and see where it leads you as you stop to run an errand or make plans for your weekend.
Inject play into your life. Get down on the floor with kids and immerse yourself in their play for a few minutes — rather than being an observer — and remember what that feels like. Find ways to be silly. Try putting a basket of small colorful toys on the conference room table and enjoy them before the start of a meeting. Hang something delightful on your bulletin board that brings a smile to you face. Play also changes your brain waves. It lets creativity happen naturally.
The more often you take these breaks and make these shifts, the more you’ll feel refreshed, relaxed and better all around when you get back to your scheduled activities. You’ll see that even these small efforts, when they become routine for you, will lead to having more creative, fresh thoughts that will brighten your life. And, you'll observe that, paradoxically, slowing down and reaping renewed energy and creative thinking will make you more productive. That's a real bouns!
You may even find yourself consciously building some “white space” into your schedule as you plan future appointments and tasks. Try it! See how building small spaces into your life will reap big rewards.