Pay attention. I am not kidding. Really.

Tag: intentional living

Making the Most of Your Time

 

photo of two birds on a branch

What do birds have to do with time? Read on.

I’m unapologetically partial to the idiomatic expression – killing two birds with one stone – which probably originated with the Chinese, ever famous for their spot-on and very pithy proverbs.

But let me be clear. Killing two birds – or three or four or five – with one stone should not be confused with multitasking. Killing two birds with one stone is simply solving two problems with a single action.

Multitasking, on the other hand, involves doing many actions, all simultaneously, in hopes of accomplishing at least a couple of them adequately. In my humble opinion, multitasking has been vastly overrated, as it yields shoddy work and a propensity for ADD-like behavior (in people who don’t even have ADD!).

The old idea of accomplishing several goals by doing one single thing, however, has timeless merit. In fact, it’s irretrievably intertwined with the concept of intentional living. When we’ve set our moral compass, composed a set of guidelines for living by that moral compass, and set goals for how we intend to live by those guidelines, we’ve started down the path of intentional living. (Plenty of people we know, though, will try to sabotage our efforts.)

As we go through our days, we pay attention to any and everything all the while keeping our moral compass, life guidelines, and goals clearly in view. When it’s time to act, we’re usually able to combine goals/reasons/projects into one activity thereby making the most of our time. And without much brain drain, I might add.

A concrete example

Since examples run circles around word generalities, here’s a concrete example using three of my goals/life principles: 

  1. Practice inclusivity: help people feel that they belong.
  2. Practice information-gathering. (Check the Gold Nugget series of posts for more on asking questions.)
  3. Practice hospitality: encourage people to feel at home in our home.

Let’s say it appears to me that some new friends of ours are on the periphery of our social circle; they don’t appear to feel very much a part of us. Let’s say they both happen to know a good deal about some subjects about which I’m astonishingly ignorant. Let’s say I invite these new friends, along with some older friends, for a simple home-cooked meal in our home.

See how this is stacking up? By simply inviting them to our home for a meal, I accomplish numbers 1, 2, and 3. I kill three birds with one stone.

Are you thinking, What’s the big deal? I already do this. So do most of us but speaking for just myself, I know I don’t do it enough. I keep plodding on though, paying attention to how many of my goals, projects, tasks, or assignments can be accomplished by one single action. In other words, I’m trying to be intentional about making the most of my time.

By the way, I’m well aware that this old Chinese proverb may not sit well with you bird-lovers. So, check out the one below, courtesy of a TickleBugs site contest, for a kinder, gentler idomatic expression.

Just remember, though, plenty of cultures and generations before us relied on birds for winter protein. This ancient proverb wasn’t referring to the habits of cruel and bloodthirsty juvenile delinquents. Protein from bird meat was a necessity. Check out the Scottish doocot or dovecot, a place constructed solely to lure pigeons and doves for easy pickings, come mealtime.

© 2014, Teresa Bennett

Intentional Living

photo looking up from the ground at rescuer and rescue-ee dangling from a whirling helicopter

Often appropriate. Other times, not so much.

Have you noticed that “right now” is usually a bogus statement, primarily used by those wanting your time or your money? “Right now” is also the most formidable enemy of intentional living that I’ve ever encountered.

My own definition of intentional living is this: choosing to live our lives according to our morals and values, regardless of what our society thinks is politically correct. It’s a studied, preplanned approach to life that makes decision-making a whole lot more straightforward, once we’ve paid attention and done the heavy lifting upfront.

You know how “right now” looks. It comes packaged as “This amazing offer is available for the next 15 minutes only.” Or this oft-used gem: “If you don’t come right now, I just don’t know how I’ll manage.” And on and on.

When confronted with right-now clamor, I’ve developed what I call my D&D Strategy. And wouldn’t you know, I neglected to copyright it so feel free to pass it on.

Delay.

When my usually robust willpower is trounced by a “special, one-day only, once-a-year, blockbuster sale,” or someone demands my help RIGHT NOW, I delay decision-making in favor of pay-attention question-posing.

  • Do I need this for any of the short- or long-term projects already on my to-do list?
  • Have I already researched prices for it? Is it really a deal?
  • Was it already on my shopping list? If not, why not?
  • Do I already have four? If so, exactly why do I need a fifth?
  • Is this person really helpless without me?
  • If I respond right now, will that solve the problem?

I’ll bet you can think of plenty of other questions that will delay your buying decision till you can pay attention to your moral values and the goals you’ve set for yourself. Thoughtful questions force us to delay our decisions until we’ve ascertained a buying decision fits in with our intentional living – or not.

When someone (usually known for this type of right-now call) phones to demand I come to their aid right now, I use the delay approach again. I start asking questions to learn why I, and I alone, am the person who needs to fix their problem. The more questions I ask, the more it often becomes apparent to me and, more importantly, to them that I am not The Fixer: they are.

Slowing down their panicky mind almost always helps them realize they know the steps they need to take to fix their own problem and are quite capable of taking them. Delaying a right-now response to their frantic cry for a helicopter rescue* has made the rescue unnecessary or, at the very least, dramatically less than what they were demanding at the outset.

Divert.

I’ve found this works best when practiced on self, though it can also be effective – sort of – when practiced on children. I’ve found it not quite so effective on adults, who can drive off and do whatever they choose, regardless of how much good advice they receive.

When mesmerized by the allure of a sparkling new ______ on sale at seventy percent off (!!!) but only “through the weekend,” I haul out the diversionary big guns. I remind myself of what I’d intended to accomplish that day, the responsibilities I’d already agreed to, anything that will take my mind off this tantalizing deal. I pay attention to my intentions for the day and stay rigidly focused on them the entire day.

Try it. Here’s what you’ll find: by the end of the day, you’ve forgotten about The Deal of a Lifetime. Or not. Maybe, after taking care of business, your mind willfully wanders back to THE Deal.

But if you’re like me, you’ll find The Deal of a Lifetime has lost a considerable amount of its luster. After sufficient diversion, you can think clearly; you can find all sorts of flaws in your buying motives that, in the heat of the right-now moment, you’d conveniently stuffed at the back of your brain. Diverting your attention to other, more intentional activities has helped you make a more rational decision.

Back to the example above about another’s demand for helicopter rescue. Divert their attention – help them pay attention – to all they things that are right with their life; all the things they are quite capable of doing to help themselves; how they’ve helped themselves in the past in similar situations. If you’re halfway good at this and they’re a somewhat mature adult, your diversionary tactics will pay off big time. You will have talked them down, encouraged them to be The Fixer in their own life, and saved yourself an unnecessary helicopter mission.

Delay & Divert Misconceptions

But wait, are you saying we shouldn’t help others?” Of course not! I’m not advocating we callously let others sink or swim.

I am saying that we delay and divert action until we’re quite sure the action fits what we’ve already decided for our own intentional living morals and values AND is genuinely needed and helpful to others. That’s all: just a little time to come to the best decision for everyone.

Sometimes, as in the story of The Good Samaritan in the Bible, that delay-and-divert tactic takes seconds or minutes as we ascertain that helping fits right in with our moral values. NOT helping would be denying our intentional living values. So we rev up the helicopter and drop the rescue rope.

But need I say, we rarely find ourselves in a Good-Samaritan scenario? Usually, though it’s hard to remember when someone is screaming RIGHT NOW in your ear, there’s ample time for Delay & Divert.

Already have your own version of Delay & Divert? Why not share it with the rest of us? As you well know, I’ve only scratched the surface.

*I truly wish I’d thought up this helicopter concept, but I didn’t. It stole it from Love & Logic parenting materials produced by Jim Fay and Foster Cline. FYI: most of their ideas, like their helicopter-versus-the-consultant metaphor, work on adults, too. (And they’re quite handy.)

©2014, Teresa Bennett

red box with white text: “It's not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.”  ― Roy Disney

Concise wisdom from Walt Disney’s nephew

red box with white text: “Until you accept responsibility for your life, someone else runs your life.”  ― Orrin Woodward

Pay-attention wisdom from a leadership guru

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