The first article in the Mindful of Myself series focused mainly on internally processing our goals in a mindful manner; being aware of our strengths and weaknesses and how that can affect what we are trying to accomplish in life. I believe, however, the micro matters too, how we manage and structure the quotidian says a great deal about our presence of mind not to mention how present we are with the people that matter in our lives. How does this tangibly play out? How can we, in a mindful manner, attend to the needs of ourselves (and others, be they family, colleagues or classmates) as well as move towards our goals and dreams?
First, I believe we need to be mindful of our energy, as we are all hardwired with limitations. For example, introverts may crave a different sort of "recharge" than an extrovert does after a full day of meetings. Alternatively, some of us move throughout the day with young children relying on our attention (and hence, energy) as their sole source of sustenance. At the end of the day, there is only so much we can outsource to others and our core energy we must protect and be mindful of it as there is only so much that can be expended at any given time.
Secondly, it's essential to be mindful of pace. As someone who loves to innovate and try new things (personally and professionally) I have also come to realize that in this stage of life it is essential to focus on incremental change vs. a major overhaul. For example, a few years ago I wanted to step up our green efforts in our household and began exploring the idea of raising chickens, composting and researching energy efficient vehicles. Apart from having two children under age 4 at the time, I was also growing my business and my husband was often in the West Coast for work. Needless to say, I quickly found myself knee-deep in information overload and became overwhelmed to the point of not wanting to move forward on any of the initiatives. I decided that, given our stage of life, it was best to focus on one thing, and do that excellently. I chose to learn how to compost, researched the best compost receptacle for our house and taught myself and the other family members how to use it. We've had time to adjust to the disciple of a new routine (emptying and cleaning the compost bin, etc.) and I've had the satisfaction of learning that one thing well while also benefiting from some rather amazing garden soil! This is a small example, but one that I hope highlights how it is important to be mindful of our stage of life, our bandwidth and how much change we can absorb at any given time.
Lastly, mindful of personal energy moves us into being mindful of our time. I have found that the practical becomes the personal, which becomes the professional and so on. On a routine level, using a daily planner is key. I've used several models over the past few years but one feature I've appreciated is that there is a section each day for "the first three." Each day brings a myriad of tasks but even planner designers know that often there is only enough time to complete three tasks. Outlining those "top three" helps provide focus and clarity for what my priority for the day needs to be. Effective planning can be quite freeing as it provides an outline for our days, helps us stay on task for what needs to be done and what needs to be protected so that we can flourish, internally and externally. Our culture so often puts a premium on busy and correlates busyness to worth that it's important to be mindful of what exactly we are spending our time on, how we organize that time and why we are choosing the tasks and activities that we do expend our time and energy on.
This is the second in a three-part series on mindfulness entitled "Mindful of Myself."