Not a Pie in the Sky
Updated: Sep 16
Back from the holidays. You feel rested. Full of energy and ideas and ready to go back. What makes the holiday such a refreshing moment and how can we keep this feeling going on every day.
When we are on vacation, the first change is in the routine. Everybody experiences this differently. One thing for sure, you will not have to set the alarm clock or subject yourself to a pre imposed schedule (unless you want to!). It is absolute freedom to do what you want to do. You might give yourselves to sport and fitness; explore new places, sit on a chair reading or simply enjoy a cold drink and just be.
Neuroscience has revealed that there are two different system pathways when it comes to the mind. One is “task-positive" and the other
"task-negative" internally focused
Uncluttered by worries, deadlines and everyday problem solving, our brain can wander activating its DM (default mode). Neuroscience has revealed that there are two different system pathways when it comes to the mind. One is "task-positive" associated with active engagement in goal-directed tasks involving attention to the world and the other "task-negative" internally focused. When one is immediately engaged, the other is decreasingly involved, giving a welcomed rest to the executive side of the brain, which tends to suffer from cognitive overload. While the active part of our brain rests, the other, unencumbered, provides us with the most surprising and welcoming solutions.
While it is essential to make the most of your holiday allowance (continuing to work on a holiday isn't an option), there are ways to take your brain 'on vacation' even during the working week.
Since I moved to the United States, I have been impressed by the ability of Americans to fill any little spare time they have with activities. Most people I have met have a full-time job but they are often engaged in some professional development. If they have children, they are somewhat involved in school or extra curricular activities. If this wasn't enough, some throw in some fundraising or volunteering for a charitable organisation. Without mentioning the odd marathon once a year. Blimey!
The first thing that becomes apparent is how little is often allocated to activating that "task-negative" brain pathway
The first thing I do with my clients is to have them look at their day as a pie and divide it in big chunks according to what they are spending their time on. Say, 65% work, 30% family, 5% me time. What becomes immediately apparent is how little is often allocated to activating that "task-negative" brain pathway we all need to access as often as we can. The next step is all about managing time more efficiently.
Consider Janet. She is working four days a week in a demanding job. In the meantime, she is following a course and building her new business. She is also looking after her 9-year-old who is an almost professional gymnast. She was desperately looking for more time to finalise some important goal for her future career. When we looked at how she allocated her time, we immediately spotted where she could do some ‘efficiency cuts’. Janet took the exercise to a new height. She decided to record all her activities for a week. She immediately noticed that in her pie she had completely forgotten to set aside any time for herself. Not surprisingly. When I work with my clients to streamline time, they are usually impressed by how much we manage to shave off from each slice of the pie and the possibility of an increased share of "me time" starts to become real.
The possibilities are endless. Philip leaves work a bit later or a bit earlier so he can find a seat on the train. He has 50 minutes to himself when he reads, or he just relaxes
How to make the best of the newfound time? The possibilities are endless. One of my clients, Luke, a creative in an executive position, for example, managed to organise his time at work better. One of his most welcomed change was to put a time limit to meetings. No more than 10 minutes. On one condition; no telephones in the meeting room. Once the weekly schedule had been optimised, he reserved Fridays for creative projects. Or take Philip, who has a long commute. He makes sure he leaves work a bit later or a bit earlier so he can find a seat on the train. He has 50 minutes to himself when he reads, or he just relaxes. Maybe you can be inspired by Sarah, a professional blog writer. She works from home, so when she gets stuck, she puts her trainers on and goes for a run. She usually gets ideas flowing again, and on her return, she is ready to hit the keyboard.
What works for you might be different, but the benefit of getting your mind in passive mode will be rapidly apparent. Not only you will be less tired and more relaxed, but that time off will allow you to be more productive. Those ideas that will come to you with little or no effort will ease the pressure on the executive brain and will also provide new outside of the box solutions you didn't think possible. It doesn’t stop here. You will discover a creative side you didn't know you had (with the bonus of a confidence boost! ) and you will have more energy available for yourself and the ones around you. What’s more, it is rather easy to squeeze it in your schedule. So what will you be going for?
Whether walking home or taking the bike, make the best of your pie.