10 Ways to Stop Being ‘Insanely Busy’

Today’s episode is all about taking a break from the grind, whether that’s a much needed lunch break of the 10-month sabbatical my guest managed to take. Rest has been proven again and again to increase our well-being dramatically … and yet, we don’t do it.
Here’s a reprint of my post popular article on this subject. I’m running it while I’m on a vacation in France getting my own rest. I hope you find it valuable!

If you’re like many of us, you work 50-60 hours in an office. Or you take work home, work on weekends — and try to juggle the rest of life as well. It gets overwhelming, doesn’t it?
That plus the ever present demands of children, ageing parents, and community sends us over the edge. No wonder we get mired in self-talk about the impossibility of work-life balance. But here’s the thing …
 Would you unplug if you could?

Often we get lulled into thinking we have no choice. We believe we have to overwork in order to succeed, in order to be viable. We believe we have to suffer to be whole.
For one week why not try some of these unplugging ideas as an experiment in self-care? You’ll find out exactly how willing you are to stop being so busy. And you may just find your way back to greater peace.
1. Begin to breathe. Take five minutes at the start of each day – before you even reach for your phone. Sit up, get comfortable, and simply breathe with your eyes closed. Follow your breath in and out. Just observe it. Let your mind go crazy but keep coming back to your breath. Do this every day for one week, and then notice. Are you starting to feel calmer?

2. Forgive those who anger you. Easier said than done, perhaps. Take at least thirty minutes of quiet time on a lunch hour to write out all of your resentments towards a particular person. Write it all down. Eventually, you will get to the end. And there you will naturally find forgiveness – which feels so much better. (If you think you don’t have 30 minutes, what can you change so you actually do that have that time? Reminder: We all deserve an hour off at lunch.)

3. Acknowledge yourself. When is the last time you tuned into your inner conversation about yourself? It’s there – trust me. Consider adding some kind words or a little pep talk each day when you’re taking a shower or brushing your teeth. Picking a regular time seems to help.

4. Take back lunch. If you work through lunch, stop immediately. You need this break. Really! Allow yourself to shut your door and relax. Bring your lunch to work and find something fun to do with this precious hour. Read a juicy novel. Knit. Take a walk. Bring an instrument and consider starting an office jam session. (I once witnessed this in an award winning Swedish ad agency!) This step, alone, could start a small revolution … and such truly alternative ‘brain breaks’ have been proven to increase overall effectiveness in work.

5. Turn off the ringer and all notifications on your phone. Let your phone fade into the background. Check it sporadically … you can do it! You’ll find you become more present, more relaxed. And far more inspired. If your boss demands you keep it on, simply smile and keep setting that firm, polite boundary. This is restorative time that allows you to work more efficiently in the afternoon.

6. Turn off your phone at lunch. Just try this for one week, even if it feels incredibly uncomfortable. You will find that what once seemed incredibly important isn’t so crucial now. And so balance returns.

7. Start to walk places – or ride a bike. This is a good one if you can’t make time to exercise. If your daily commute is filled with traffic, get around it hopping on a bike. If that’s not practical, outfit your bike with a basket or panniers and do your errands this way. Or carry a small backpack and walk. The natural endorphins you’ll experience may make this irresistible.

8. Take a nap. Insane right? Au contraire. According to The National Sleep Foundation, a 20-30 minute nap will leave you far more alert and better able to perform, without grogginess. Try to find a place at work to curl up – read a great book called Take a Nap; Change Your Life  for inspiration.

9. Find a buddy. Making changes in old habits and mindsets requires support. Find at least one good pal you can call as you travel new roads. Check in each day by phone or email on how this slowing, calming process is working for you.

10. Ask yourself what you need … then provide it. So often we put ourselves last in the rush to please others and get ahead. But our needs never stop. Get in the habit of asking yourself several times per day what you need. Take the first answer you get, even if you don’t like it. It’s okay … you really can trust yourself to know the truth.

Remember, you were designed to be whole and complete — without overwork or stress of any kind. And you can get back to that sweet place by simply allowing yourself to unfold a little.

Please feel free to listen to my podcast, Before the Afterlife, where I interviewed Linda Claire Puig about How to Go On a Magical Sabbatical, See the World and Change Your Life.

Also, please share with me your own ideas about how you avoid being ‘insanely busy’.

I’d love to hear from you,

 

 

 

 

 

Are You a Wounded Decision Maker?

Throughout most of my life, I made decisions based on one thing: how I felt in the moment.

Turned out to be a bad idea.

Back in my early twenties, when I was starting out as an advertising copywriter, I chose to work for an abusive jerk in one of the most notorious hack agencies in New York. It was the place that invented that American icon, Madge the Manicurist. And working there was hell.

At the same time, I ignored an invitation to interview with Ed McCabe, the grand circus master of creative boutique agencies. He was the guy every young writer wanted to work for. He was fun, engaging and swept every awards show. But I blew off his entreaty.

Why?
Because I had no idea what I was doing. Blithely, I assumed I should just go on instincts, so I made a very bad choice.

The bottom line was that I didn’t know how to ask for help. Nor did I even know I needed help.

At age 20, I thought I knew all the answers. “All ad agencies are alike,” I told myself, which couldn’t have been further from the truth. So I chose rashly, with no preparation.

Thirty-two years later, I discovered I was still making the same mistake. Fresh out of a 25-year marriage and newly out as a lesbian, I was in no mood for circumspection.  I dove headfirst into a love affair with an unstable person.

A month later I came to my senses and walked away – only to return to her a month later on an impulse. A friend at the time advised me against it.

“You’re scaring me,” he said. But I ignored him.

After all, I always knew the correct answer … right?

Wrong.

Only in the last several years have I learned to make decisions slowly and with a great deal of thought. The bigger the decision, the more thought goes into it. It feels like an act of Grace.

Conscious decision-making has taught me that I am not alone. That it’s best to get feedback from trusted friends. So I’ve come to think of these wonderful advisers as my personal ‘board of directors.’

Friends talked me off the cliff of compulsive overwork when it was time grieve my daughter’s death. Others advised me to walk away from a potential abusive relationship, and run towards the woman I was really suited to.

Still others kept me from snuffing out my pain with an impulse to buy a painting I couldn’t afford.

In the end, each choice I’ve made has always been mine. But I’ve learned to make them with eyes open and all the options on the table.

In this way, conscious decision-making has saved my bacon many times in recent years.

Here’s the part I really love: this Zen-like approach to decision making is fun. The pressure is off!

Especially when I regard each decision as an experiment – one that may work beautifully, or, instead, become a ‘learning experience.’

No longer must I be the swashbuckling hero of the moment, swooping in to make a big decision with no forethought or research. No longer must I save the day the way I used to as a child in an alcoholic family.

Instead, now I can take my own sweet time. I can decide when I’m damn good and ready, and not a moment sooner.

Not surprisingly, the woman I am now married to is a beautiful decision maker. She vets every choice thoroughly, turning it over from all angles. She’s not interested in seizing every opportunity, but instead, in exploring the potential downsides as well.

She takes her time, and she is teaching me to do so, too’.

At times, it’s still uncomfortable to peel myself away from a rash decision. The old buzz of pheromones and the thrill of the adrenal rush sometimes beckon.

But I stop to reflect before I choose. Because I know that on the other side is excellent self care, which is far more sustainable than the sugar rush of a fast choice.

Do I still honor my instincts? Absolutely. It’s just that now I know how to sit with them.

The world will not end tomorrow if we don’t act today. We can act in good time, slowly and consciously, and so enjoy the warm glow of satisfaction from a decision well made.

May you choose well and slowly.

If you like this conversation about how to avoid making knee-jerk reactions, you might love my latest podcast with Chel Hamilton. She has a lot to say about overcoming ‘knee-jerkery’.

The Value of a ‘Why Not’ List 

One of the big illusions about life is that somewhere out there … it’s better. Someone other than me is working harder, delighting more readers, and generally looking a lot hotter.

And so, presumably, they are on track to be the so-called winner. Maybe they even get to take home a big stuffed bear.

A part of our brain often gets fixated on how our lives should be … as opposed to how perfectly satisfying and wonderful they are right here and right now.

My friend Jon calls this sad habit ‘shoulding on yourself’.

As in ‘I should be working 50 hours weeks building my empire,’ or  ‘I should have a massive list by now’. And let’s not forget that perennial favorite, ‘I should be ten pounds thinner.’

If you’re like me, you slip into shoulding without even thinking about it. I notice I get particularly should-y when thinking about my work, no matter how much I’ve accomplished. And no matter what’s going on in my life.

I’m thinking about my wedding six months ago. These were the days of wine and roses! Yet my mind was squarely parked on how much work I could cram in before the guests start arriving … purely out of should-i-ness.

But was I actually getting it done? Not really. I was too distracted! I wanted to take a champagne bath, and try on my wedding ring fifteen more times. I want to call all the family and friends who were showing up for the big day.

I wanted to hold my love and look dreamily in her eyes.

Which I would have done … except for that taskmaster, Should, in my head. Silently, she tapped her stick against her hand.

Here’s the supreme irony of it all. We don’t actually get that much done when we are being all ‘shouldy’. We’re much more likely to really rock the results when we let go completely and honor what’s happening here and now.

Jon, who is a very wise soul, reminds me that even a state of inertia can be God’s will for us.

Think about that … even a state of inertia can be God’s will for us.

Wow.

After all, God’s not standing around, tapping a foot and impatiently waiting for results, right? We’re the ones who do that.

Instead, God, or the Universe, or Spirit (or whomever you recognize that great guiding Force to be), invites us all to let go and slide into the great slipstream of love. Here we flow from one task to the next, effortlessly.

Here we let go and surrender and find our way to whatever would feel right next.

So instead of a ‘To Do’ list, may I humbly suggest a ‘Why Not?’ list.
Why not take a walk and watch the clouds for as long as you want? For if you do, some inspiration will surely descend.

Why not call someone you love and tell them so. Then your heart will expand just a little more greatly.

Or why not take a chance and submit a story to that hot media outlet you’ve been craving because suddenly … it feels right?

That’s flow, baby. I highly recommend inviting it into your life.

When we get ball-and-chained to our To Do lists, there is no room for us to breathe. So we forget the very core of our aliveness. This is how we get so very, very tired. We can’t keep up, and the strategies we’ve invested our time, our money, and our belief in begin to crumble.

This is when the ‘shoulds’ begin in earnest. And rightly so because (gasp!) … we rall behind. And we know in our hearts we will never catch up.

This is how we wind up soundly parked in self-doubt.
Which is exactly where I was when I spoke to my friend Jon. I needed to hear him say that that there is no ‘there’ there. There really is nothing to push towards.
There is only the here and now, one beautiful day at a time.

May you join me in embracing what is, for all of its warts, bumps and obvious gaps. They, too, are God’s will … just as you are.

You have been given a sacred job of simply being, my friend. So the question remains: is that good enough for you?

Me? I say yes!

 

 

P.S.

Do you want to learn more about walking away from the to-do list? Listen to the latest episode of Before the Afterlife, How to Walk Away from the To-Do List – with Jen Riday

 

11 Ways You Know You Are in San Francisco

  1. It is entirely possible to see people in full costume. Any day. Any time. Yes, you may see a grown man in diapers, bonnet, and pacifier ride by on his bike. Five o’clock shadow, too.
  2. Everyone’s really friendly. On the other hand, they are probably stoned. An SF cabbie set me straight on this my first month living in the city. Which could be why the whole damn city smells like weed: one hell of a lot of people in this town need medical marijuana.
  3. Every coffee bar has coders. Lots of them. They are all seriously caffeinated, staring at computer screens filled with row after row of numbers. They may be men or women. They are almost always young.
  4. People wear down jackets in July and August. I was once chastised by an elderly woman wearing a pea coat, gloves, hat and scarf on a chilly summer night. I was wearing only a light jacket. She called me ‘crazy’.
  5. Then the fog rolls in. You’re standing on an average, humdrum corner of the city. It’s night. Then suddenly everyone looks like Sam Spade, walking towards you through the fog, as the city goes all forbidding and mysterious.
  6. The subject on nearly everyone’s mind is sex. And I do mean everyone, both young and old.url Witness 1960’s topless dance icon Carol Ann Doda. Her recent death rated a front-page story in The San Francisco Chronicle. Then there’s the world’s largest leather fair – one of the few places it’s still legal to hang out completely in the nude, with or without your harness.
  7. The guy in the corner store can talk wine. You drop by the deli up the street to pick up a quick bottle of vino. Suddenly you find yourself involved in a ten-minute discourse on the relative fruitiness of two merlots, or the hint of chocolate and mesquite in an old vine zin.
  8. You become one with the homeless. They’re everywhere. I still have fond memories of The Screamer, a mentally ill man who stood outside my window and screamed loudly at the top of his lungs from time to time. We had a nodding acquaintance. I gave him cash, and he called me ‘Sister’. Even Super Bowl 50 is rife with homeless encampments – more than 100 tents have sprung up around the edges of the festivities.
  9. You begin to hate having a car. Broken car glass is called ‘San Francisco Snow’ by the SFPD. If it’s not broken into, your car will be dinged, bumped, scraped and dented. And that’s IF you can actually get a parking space. Eventually you will succumb to the Muni-Uber combo, with the occasional Zip Car rental.
  10. You, too, will become a Foodie. It’s inevitable. Hang around this food-coffee-wine-obsessed town long enough and you will start worrying about which ranch your grass-fed beef was raised on. (Was it Prather?) Relax and enjoy. You’ll gain weight and drop serious amounts of money, like $85 on a leg of lamb at the farmer’s market. But boy, will it be good!
  11. One day, you will finally chill out. You wake up one morning and realize you no longer care about all that driven, success-oriented stuff that used to be so critical. Like all those tourists riding bikes hopefully towards the Golden Gate Bridge before they have felt its gale force winds, you have become seduced. Glassy-eyed. Suddenly you have time to wait for artisan grilled cheese sandwiches and six dollar pour over coffees.And so the city has done her work. Congratulations.

Transformed cover thumbnailTINY

If you like Suzanne’s writing about San Francisco, check out her new book with co-author Jack Harvey. Transformed: San Francisco, a sexy, funny thriller.

“One of the highlights of Transformed is the San Francisco setting. Bursting with details, the descriptions of the city render it an important part of the plot… San Francisco becomes just as well developed as any of the characters, both layered and complex.” — Foreward Reviews

Ten Great Gifts to Give Yourself This Holiday Season

giftgivingIt’s that time of year when we tend to be focused on everyone else – shopping, planning, hosting, baking for and perhaps partying with those around us.

What if, for a small, precious moment, you thought of yourself? What if you made your own special holiday gift list … just for you?

Here are some ideas for that precious list …

  1. Enough time. What if you planned a little less ambitiously, slowed down, and simply took more time to get things done? The world will probably not end. In fact, it may look a whole lot better as a result.
  2. Check-ins with yourself. All too often we forge ahead in life without ever really noticing how we are doing. When’s the last time you stopped, took three deep breaths and noticed how you’re feeling? What do you need today, right here and right now?
  3. Supportive friends. Take a look and see who your go-to person is for support and understanding. Is there a conspicuous gap? Studies show that those who have a network of supportive friends tend to live 22% longer.
  4. Spiritual connection time. When you meditate, pray or even take a contemplative walk every day and connect to your divine guidance, beautiful things can happen. Your brain naturally cycles down so life becomes calmer and less dramatic. You no longer feel so alone. Begin wherever you are … perhaps with just a quick spiritual thought every day. The important thing is to know that you are supported by the Universe and you always will be. A daily practice has a lovely way of reinforcing that message.
  5. Forgiveness and compassion. When’s the last time you let yourself off the hook?  Can you forgive yourself for your past mistakes? For us recovering perfectionists this feels uncomfortable and false at first. But stick with it, even it is awkward. You will find your way to greater piece, so just naturally things begin to flow with greater ease.
  1. Positive messages. It used to be affirmations were ‘the next big thing’ … until it became clear that rote, empty repeating of such messages didn’t always work that well. But what if you just remind yourself when things go awry that you’re doing the best you can? What if you pop some positive messages in among the negative ones  and give them a bit of emotional oomph as well? For it is the heartfelt messages our brain listens to first. Eventually they may just carve new neural pathways … and that’s what makes for real change.
  2. A place to retreat to. Have you got a beautiful, sacred space that is delicious to be in, whether it is a local park, your bedroom or a corner of your office? We all need a handy getaway where we can think our thoughts. And if it’s set up to truly nurture us, then all the better. Fill it with things that are soothing, beautiful and just right for you. A good place to practice many of the items on this list.
  3. Belief that you can do it. So often we are sure we will fail. But what if … no matter what is in front of you … you give yourself the benefit of the doubt? Truthfully, you can tell yourself anything you want about things that worry you. So why give yourself an arm around the shoulder and a bit of reassurance. If you’re like most of us, you could use it.
  4. Belief in the Universe. I’m not talking about some pie-in-the-sky, cross-your-fingers-and-hope-to-die superstition here. I’m talking about a quiet, enduring faith that God wants good things for you. Could you wrap your head around the idea that life is meant to be a great string of lessons with a perfect plan behind it all. In other words, can you trust the path that has been laid out before you. For, believe it or not, the path trusts you.
  5. Pure unadulterated love. That’s all you’re made of, you know; just a whole lot of light, love and happiness, simply bursting at the seams to get out. Even when you feel like hell. Even when you have forgotten. This is the core of love deep inside each of us, like a present waiting to be unwrapped. Simply close your eyes and ask it to come find you. And then sit back, relax and enjoy.

May you find love, light and happiness this holiday season.

All my love,

Suzanne

 

 

10 Ways to Stop Being ‘Insanely Busy’

Hands with teacupIf you’re like many of us, you work 50-60 hours in an office. Or you take work home, work on weekends — and try to juggle the rest of life as well. It gets overwhelming, doesn’t it?

That plus the ever present demands of children, aging parents, community sends us over the edge. No wonder we get mired in self talk about the impossibility of work-life balance. But here’s the thing …

 Would you unplug if you could?

Often we get lulled into thinking we have no choice. We believe we have to overwork in order to succeed, in order to be viable. We believe we have to suffer to be whole.

For one week why not try some of these unplugging ideas as an experiment in self care? You’ll find out exactly how willing you are to stop being so busy. And you may just find your way back to greater peace.

  1. Begin to breathe. Take five minutes at the start of each day – before you even reach for your phone. Sit up, get comfortable, and simply breathe with your eyes closed. Follow your breath in and out. Just observe it. Let your mind go crazy but keep coming back to your breath. Do this every day for one week, and then notice. Are you starting to feel calmer?
  2. Forgive those who anger you. Easier said than done, perhaps. Take at least thirty minutes of quiet time on a lunch hour to write out all of your resentments towards a particular person. Write it all down. Eventually you will get to the end. And there you will naturally find forgiveness – which feels so much better.
  3. Acknowledge yourself. When is the last time you tuned into your inner conversation about yourself? It’s there – trust me. Consider adding some kind words each day when you’re taking a shower or brushing your teeth.
  4. Take back lunch. If you work through lunch, stop immediately. You need this break. Really! Allow yourself to shut your door and relax. Bring your lunch to work and find something fun to do with this precious hour. Read a juicy novel. Knit. Take a walk. Bring an instrument and consider starting an office jam session. This step, alone, could start a small revolution.
  5. Turn off the ringer and all notifications on your phone. Let your phone fade into the background. Check it sporadically … you can do it! You’ll find you become more present, more relaxed. And far more inspired. If your boss demands you keep it on, simply smile and keep setting that firm, polite boundary. This is restorative time that allows you to work more efficiently in the afternoon.
  6. Turn off your phone at lunch. Just try this for one week, even if it feels incredibly uncomfortable. You will  find that what once seemed incredibly important isn’t so crucial now. And so balance returns.
  7. Start to walk places – or ride a bike. This is a good one especially if you can’t make time to exercise. If your daily commute is filled with traffic, get around it hopping on a bike. If that’s not practical, outfit your bike with a basket or panniers and do your errands this way. Or carry a small backpack and walk. The natural endorphins you’ll experience may make this irresistible.
  8. Take a nap. Insane right? Au contraire. According to The National Sleep Foundation, a 20-30 minute nap will leave you far more alert and better able to perform, without grogginess. Try to find a place at work to curl up — read Take a Nap; Change Your Life for inspiration.
  9. Find a buddy. Making changes in old habits and mindsets requires support. Find at least one good pal you can call as you travel new roads. Check in each day by phone or email on how this slowing, calming process is working for you.
  10. Ask yourself what you need … then provide it. So often we put ourselves last in the rush to please others and get ahead. But our needs never stop. Get in the habit of asking yourself several times per day what you need. Take the first answer you get, even if you don’t like it. It’s okay … you really can trust yourself to know the truth.

Remember, you were designed to be whole and complete — without overwork or stress of any kind. And you can get back to that sweet place by simply allowing yourself to unfold a little.

Please feel free to share your own ideas here about how you avoid being ‘insanely busy’. Thanks!

 

 

 

 

Got Joy?

If yoTeal & Me Strawberries.FBu are like me, you’ve worked a lot in your life. A. Lot. And as a result you may have held back from the quintessential joy that is the sweet part of life. And here’s the crazy thing … we do this willingly. Even knowingly. Simply because we are in a habit of suffering, or overworking, or plodding along without a whole lotta fun.

Why? Because we think we have to. But such thoughts are truly an illusion.

I invite you right here and right now to take a joy break. That is something my beloved daughter, Teal, was so good at. She lived a happy path soaked in joy pretty much all the time. So it’s my happy privilege these days to share a bit of that eternal joy with you right here, right now.

What can you do for yourself right now that would give you a hit of joy?