Lost In Time

Isn’t it interesting how our pace of life and wanes in cycles like the moon in its passage around the earth.  Lately it seems to me like there isn’t enough time to fit everything in.  As a rule we always seem to have some time pressure with work, home duties and other events.

But it seems right now that the demands are particularly high.  I think what fuels that is that they are demands.  While I’m perfectly okay with doing these things, in fact looking forward to some of them, I think the challenge is that I don’t feel I’m choosing to do them.  Work travel, family events, school commitments, etc. They are things with schedules outside my control so it feels like they are “consuming my time” instead of me “giving them time”.

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on how we relate to time in our life.

Sometimes we just don’t seem to have enough of it. When asked by others “how are you?”, how often do we answer “I’m so busy!  There aren’t enough hours in the day!” In fact, I would say “busy” is the most common answer I get to the question “how are you?”  Sometimes when we feel busy it is a great thing … we’re occupied, productive, important. Other times, we are too busy … we’re stressed, overwhelmed, under-appreciated, taken advantage of. As if we feel the defining characteristic of us as a human being is just how much we have to do or are asked to do.

France2012 102Sometimes it is interminable: “Will this meeting ever end?” “This job is so boring!” “There’s nothing good on television. What am I going to do with myself?” When the “busyness” has been put on hold at the end of a work day, when the rest of the family is away on a weekend, when our presence is required somewhere that takes us away from our task list (that meeting, a wedding, etc.)

Why is it then that some of our most rewarding moments are those where we have no recollection of the passage of time? Whether it be a fascinating project at work, a hobby, playing sports or engagement in artistic pursuit? Perhaps even something as basic as driving a car can produce this state.

In my post “Bang On The Drum” last week I wrote of the topic of flow. That post spoke of flow from an organizational and leadership perspective. This week I would like to explore it more from a personal development perspective. What can we do to introduce more flow into our lives?

Let’s explore three concepts here:

  1. Active Engagement – flow does not find us. We seek it out. Not so much in the sense of “man I’ve got to find me some flow today!” but more to know that flow happens when we engage in meaningful ways. Actively. If you are an athlete, think of playing your favorite sport. If you are an artist, think of being immersed in your art (as I am in my writing right now). Think of being in a deep conversation with a dear friend or relative. Ponder working on a solution to something that holds your imagination. It is this active engagement that is a necessary precondition for flow.
  2. Passion – flow doesn’t occur just because we have engaged. In fact I can recall being very actively engaged in something that wanted no part of because the abilities needed were not things I enjoy doing (they actually drain me). Flow requires us to engage our passions. I don’t believe that passions are learned. I think these are things we were born to love doing. Sure we can study, practice and otherwise hone these unique capabilities, but it is their innate relationship to us that puts them into the passion category.
  3. Matching Skills and Challenge – in order to produce flow, it is necessary that we seek to match our current skill level to an appropriate challenge. Imagine that we have a passion as an adventurer, but we have never before attempted rock climbing. We trust in our innate athleticism but we have no technique to draw upon. Our first time out, we might find ourselves immersed in the challenge of getting to the top of a slightly angled 30 foot wall with clear handhold while guided from below by a trained instructor. Later in our careers, flow might only be produced by free climbing.  This growth is such an important component of maintaining flow.
Riding in the flow
Riding in the flow

For those of you that have followed my blog for a while you may recall a post late last year called “Cleaning Out The Attic”. In it I discussed the concept of “junk time” and how I had too much of it in my life.  I got a lot of passionate responses to the post, mostly along the lines that leisure or unallocated time is a pleasure unto itself.  I now see how right we both were. This passive leisure time can be very pleasant and important for relaxation and connecting.  What I now see is that is also important that we choose to do this, and that in making that choice we understand that we are choosing to set aside our flow-producing active pursuits for the moment.

Back to leadership. As leaders we help our team members develop their personal development plans. How can we use these concepts to help them with their growth, their job satisfaction and their overall work/life balance? Do you bring time outside of work into your development discussions? After all, the same person that shows up at work shows up at home and in the community.

Published by

Ian Munro @ leadingessentially.com

Ian Munro is a leadership and vitality coach with a primary passion for working with senior professionals who wish to improve their connection to and vitality in their career, or who wish to make a transition to a meaningful and rewarding retirement. His methods are focused on helping clients understand why they present as they do in day-to-day life, discover their authentic self and give themselves permission to build a meaningful and rewarding future, both professional and personal. Ian’s love for this work has developed naturally as he built his career as an executive and leader in the IT services industry, serving in many roles and facets of this industry over 25 years. As he reached the pinnacle of his career he began to search more deeply for meaning and alternate rewards from his own career and to begin to plan for his own “first retirement”.

6 thoughts on “Lost In Time

  1. I think that you nailed it with this phrase “I think the challenge is that I don’t feel I’m choosing to do them” and its opposite of it is “important that we choose to do this” as to whether we feel that time is wasted or productive “flow” time and that includes both work and leisure.

  2. One of my favourite flow time activities is to gather up the week’s papers on a Saturday morning and do the puzzles. From crosswords to decadoquotes to the puzzle where you have to identify the 12 differences between to pictures to the ones where you find the phrase from jumbled words, I love them. Spending a morning doing them is for me restorative and expanding.

    As a leader, I believe that engaging in flow activities makes me a better leader. It grounds me in that place where there is no division between my ‘personal’ and leadership being — they are all one. Without choosing to create space and time for flow time, (writing and painting are also fabulous flowtime activities for me,) I become out of balance, out of sorts and stuck in the ‘doing’ of being a leader rather than the being a leader.

    Great post Ian. Thanks.

  3. Enjoyed the post as always and feel like I always read it in my flow time, based upon the time of posting, others responses and when I finally get out of bed and read the post. Am I the only one that doesn’t get moving until 10 am on Sunday, should I feel lazy 🙂

    For me I have tried to “live deliberately” these last 10 years, choosing very purposefully what I do and don’t do. In fact my don’t do list is significantly larger than my to do list. In trying to explains this a few weeks back to friends, I summed it up by saying “I am consciously choosing to do ONLY the things I want to do and ignoring and divesting of the things I don’t want to do”.

    You can imagine the responses that elicited. That’s impossible they said, isn’t that selfish, everyone has to do things they don’t want to do. Without boring you with the full philosophy, it goes like this: if I don’t want to do it, I stop doing it. But how is that possible? Aren’t there things in life we all must do we don’t want to do. I say NO. Those things that may fall under the category of “must do” either get an attitude change by me, such that I realize their inherent value and I STOP bemoaning their commitment of time and literally embrace the value they represent in my life or I literally stop doing them, because life must be lived deliberately and time must be spent purposefully.

    And now with it being 11am on Vancouver island, it’s probably time to get up and make some breakfast. Ahhhh sweet flow time

    1. Andrew, although I see your point (and wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could live like that) I am not sure whether I can totally agree with you. Washing up would be left FOREVER if I followed my ‘I don’t want to do’ list. When it all boils down, someone has to do it.

  4. Aw, this was an extremely nice post. Spending some time
    and actual effort to create a very good article… but what can I say… I put things off a lot and don’t manage to get nearly anything done.

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