Time. Do any of us have enough? Much of my life has been a dance of competing interests. As a self-employed, career-oriented visionary I want to evolve my team and my vision and execute my projects with energy and focus. Choosing where to place my attention is a constant process of discernment.
When our work inspires us, time is our most valuable commodity. New ideas, established projects and evolving priorities compete for attention. In an odd paradox, we can spend a lot of time trying to save time looking into the latest time and priority management tools.
Surprisingly, my studies in yoga and Ayurveda have revealed a new time management secret: Hacking my home life is my best tool for freeing time and focus for my work life.“Hacking” is a way to describe looking for new ways of doing things to increase efficiency. At home, this could mean cleaning in a different way or shopping for groceries online. For me it means getting smart about my self care.
Decision Making Fatigue- Getting Lost in the Mundane
Every day we navigate choices at home and work. Some of them impact our family and relationships, others our health, and some have a ripple effect on our career. Good decisions can have positive effects on our income and career trajectory. At the same time, on any given day we have limited capacity to focus, assess, and make well thought-out decisions.
One of my recent reads- “The One Thing”- illustrates this brilliantly by describing a review of decisions made by Judges within the Israeli court system. The study showed that the judges made drastically different decisions depending on what time of day they made the ruling and how recently they had eaten. Little, seemingly inconsequential things, seem to matter. When we run out of staying power we turn towards our defaults decisions- the behaviours and choices we are familiar with but which may not result in the desired outcomes. The success of our work is then determined less by our knowledge, skill and experience and more by how much mental energy our day has already consumed. Our daily habits matter.
Making “Default” Behaviour Work for Us
Knowing we have limited capacity each day, what could happen if we re-designed the time we spend AT HOME to create greater capacity at work? What if we eliminated decisions about our most mundane daily tasks- exercise, eating, and other self care- so all our mental stamina was reserved for solving our most important challenges?
Routine. “A sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program.” (Dictionary.com)
One of the reasons I was drawn to learn more about Ayurveda was Dinacharya- a simple routine of daily self-care habits. This seems ironic given most of my life I have instinctively resisted routine- I rarely committed to doing anything consistently at the same time or on the same day. I went to the gym when I was motivated. I wrote when I was inspired. Ayurveda taught me to understand this tendency through the lens of the doshas. My airy vata nature leads me to move like the wind between passions, projects and even emails in my inbox without rhyme or reason.
Why Routine Matters
In Ayurveda the element of air reflects movement, change, and diversity. Those of us who are more air element than earth element naturally gravitate to a lack of routine. We can be in a constant state of re-assessing what we are doing and what we need to do next, creating a lot of inefficiencies as we navigate our decisions for the day.
So what does this have to do with work?
Vata imbalances are exacerbated by use of electronics, movement through space, and a life of complexity and “doing more.” Many of us work with computers in knowledge-based careers, exacerbating our potential for vata imbalance and making it even harder to focus and make decisions. The very nature of our very work puts us at risk for being less successful in our work day. One remedy? Take every-day activities like our morning self care and turn it into an automatic routine so that our brain power can be used at the office.
The Challenge of Creating Routine
Changing behavior – initiating new ways of doing things – can be hard to implement and even harder to sustain. I’ve learned that the key to changing behaviour and creating routine is making use of habit changing tools to implement and sustain these rhythms.
My Favorite Tips For Hacking Your Home Life
Find A Community
The biggest gains I see in my self- care courses happen when the people I am helping connect into a bigger group. By tapping into the wisdom of our own local thrive-oriented community, as well as the books, podcasts and online resources offered by the larger Yoga Healer community, we become much more capable of evolving and changing our habits. One-to-one connection also helps. I encourage students to form accountability partnerships with other students. This can work at work too- move into conversation with a friend or colleague who is on a similar path. Turn that into a weekly accountability conversation in the same way that you touch base with your project team. By using the same kind of muscle you would for an important work project it can give you both more leverage to create shift.
Start small- very, very small- so that it is nearly impossible to resist the next step. David Allen of Getting Things Done teaches us how to start with the smallest “next action” (or kaizen). If we can’t get moving on a goal, the action we are resisting may be too big. Working out at the gym for an hour every day before you head to the office is daunting. Doing 5 minutes of sun salutations on your yoga mat at home- less so. We experiment with one small change. And then another. And learn that a day-by-day 1% improvement effectively creates the shift we want.
Resistance is ubiquitous. We know we should be doing more self care, but we spend critical time and energy weighing the pros and cons of our daily workout. Get clear and notice when you are in that debate. Close off the chatter and do the self care. Recognize the impulse to move ahead, name the negative chatter as resistance, and DO IT ANYWAYS. Eliminate the debate at home so your can think clearly at work.
I love my work. Finding enough time to be the inspiring, focussed and visionary leader I want to be has been a challenge. Time management systems, business coaching and a strong team have given me some traction. Who would have guessed that creating a solid, replicable morning and bedtime routine was what I really needed to uplevel my work life. Hacking my home life is my new secret weapon.