Here is a wonderful letter and answer from my friend Dr. Sylvia LaFair giving advice on how to achieve a healthy balance. Maybe there is an answer there for you too.
Dear Dr. Sylvia,
It’s summer and all the ads show people sipping lovely drinks at a pool or beach. Except me. Now, I shouldn’t complain. Life is good when you are busy? Right?
It’s just that I am over-scheduled, over-committed and overextended.
I am proud that so many people want so much from me. And yet, I am desperate to get some down time.
Now, don’t tell me to just stop and smell the roses. Actually, I have allergies so I would then just sneeze my head off.
What I need from you is a strategy that will go with my busy lifestyle. I need some kind words from you to tell me that life without stopping is normal and really a good thing. I need you to tell my wife and kids to leave me alone, that I am making the money so they can sit by the pool and sip lovely drinks.
I need you to tell me to keep doing what I am doing because it is the right way in business these days.
Can you please reinforce my crazy busy life model as a good one?
You, sir, are on INTERACTION OVERLOAD. And the signs of this are to be both filled with pride and desperation at the same time.
The only thing I can do to be helpful is to give you the results of research that will prove you are truly crazy by being so busy!
Look, we are built to both spend and then renew our energy. Think of a pitcher full of clear lovely water. It is meant to be used and used up. Then when the pitcher is empty it needs to be refilled to replenish us with what is needed for growth and health.
Here is my BIG QUESTION for you: when you are left alone with your thoughts in a quiet time what do you think about?
For so many crazy, busy individuals there is a mighty fear about reflection and solitude. The fear is that what we will bump up against is the deeper, negative feelings we so often push away with work and food and all the other addictions that abound.
Here’s the bad news, dear pooped. Suppressing negative feelings only gives them more power. Get busier and busier to avoid them. I think that may be what you and millions of others are doing. These feelings are like stuck plumbing (funny you named yourself ‘pooped’) and sooner or later they will build up so much muck they will eventually spill over and create a huge mess.
Better learn to live with yourself, with the solitude, with reflection time, with memories.
Mindfulness to the rescue. Learn to meditate and my dear friend Chade-Meng Tan has written a marvelous book to help you learn to look inside yourself, titled Joy On Demand.
Meng could have become a crazy busy guy, since he was one of the first engineers at Google. Instead he learned about balance and meditation and mindfulness, and he shares his wisdom with all of us.
And here is one more thought. If you are worried about some awful thing happening when you take time to be still, not to worry. Research by Kerri Smith in Nature magazine states that even in a do-nothing state the brain is still active. It is completing the task of integrating and processing your experiences.
So, take a break and let your brain do the work while you relax.