My new book Radical Brilliance came out recently, and so I am doing interviews about it. Recently, a friend and colleague invited me to be a guest on her podcast. We talked directly on the phone together, not through my publicist. I looked at the calendar and said, “I’d love to do something in May: about a month away.”
Her response was, “Oh yes, you must be crazy busy.” I could have let that comment go, but almost in a life-saving kamikaze move, I decided to correct it.
“No”, I said, “I’m not very busy at all. I only work a few hours a day, I take lots of naps, and I take 3 day weekends. And I don’t feel particularly crazy. In fact, I feel quite sane and sober.”
There was a pause, “So why do we need to wait a month to schedule the Podcast?” she asked me.
“Because,” I replied, “it’s of great importance to me that my life should remain neither crazy, nor busy.”
Perhaps that particular conversation, with a close friend, was not entirely necessary. I could have just gone along with the “crazy busy.” That is just the way people talk to each other. But that is just the point.
I am a “Radical Brilliance Coach.” I help people to have original new ideas, which no one has ever thought before, which have the capacity to change the game for everyone. Being able to think in original and innovative ways requires the right soil, the right space for things to emerge: and that is just my point.
There is a twisted logic to how we think and talk to each other these days. We think that if someone is making a real contribution, worthy of respect and attention, that person must therefore be in high demand. The way to measure if someone is in high demand is if they are constantly traveling on planes and if their calendar is booked to overflowing 10 to 12 hours a day. If that is the case, they earn the title of “busy,” and therefore also ascend to the dubious, giddy heights of being “crazy.”
However, and here is the twisted part of it – once you cram your calendar with so many things, and spend your life getting on and off planes, you are much less likely, in my experience, to continue to have incredible, innovative, life-changing ideas. You are unlikely to continue to have those exact original, life-changing ideas which might have made you popular in the first place.
For this reason, I spend a good part of the time in coaching people to help them become less busy and, therefore, less crazy. Here are a few of the most important tips to de-crazify and de-busify your life.
1. Wake up early in the morning without an alarm clock. My magic time is 4:30 am. The world is very still at that time. All the crazy, busy people are asleep and you will feel more space around the thoughts. It is a great time to practice meditation, sip a tea, and contemplate. It is also the best time to have original, creative, innovative, new ideas. I sometimes think of time as elastic. It speeds up and it slows down. Early in the morning, around the time of the dawn, time is moving very slowly. There are pauses between things. The middle of the day, when the sun is at its peak, time is moving very fast.
2. Travel less. Besides all the environmental considerations about carbon footprint, you can make a tremendously powerful impact without having to get on so many planes. I do almost all my work now using Zoom: so I can work with people all over the world, sometimes one on one and sometimes in groups, without anyone having to leave their house. I conduct live seminars, in a conference center ten minutes drive from my house, four times a year. I am still available to travel to other countries to teach, but I jacked my prices up so high that people think not once, not twice, but ten times before hiring me. This ensures that the event will be well produced and that enough people will be attending to make the travel worthwhile. I recommend you think along the same lines.
3. Log your time. At least for a while, this can be very helpful. Keep a log, in fifteen minute increments, on how you spend your time. If you do this on a spreadsheet, you can put in columns for:
:: how fulfilling was that activity,
:: how much was it aligned with your core mission and purpose,
:: did this activity increase or decrease your stress and
:: what hourly rate were you earning.
If you log your time in fifteen minute increments for a week or two, you may be able to choose again what gets into your calendar and what gets filtered out.
4. Introduce lots of nothing. Sitting quietly with your eyes closed (sometimes called “meditation”) actually creates time. My friend, Gay Hendricks, coined the term Einstein Time in his book “The Big Leap.” His idea is that who you actually are, deep down there, is the raw material out of which time made. You are the source of time. Whenever you spend time in timelessness (i.e. meditation), you create more time. This does not make a lot of sense in Newtonian logic, but it makes perfect sense in the quantum view of the universe. You do not have to understand it, just try it. Spend time in timelessness, and you will have more time the rest of the day. This could also include sitting on the back deck with a cup of tea staring at trees, or just listening to the sound of the birds.
5. Put yourself on an electronic diet. This does not mean no electronics at all: that would be unrealistic. But see if you can cut back your electronics to certain times of the day. A good place to start would be: no electronics after the sun goes down. This includes no television, no iPad, no phone, nothing that plugs into the wall or uses a battery. Instead, you can rediscover joyful activities like reading books (remember those?), talking to your family, doing jigsaw puzzles or just staring at the fire. If you write, try using a fountain pen and a leather-bound notebook instead of your laptop. This will also be a big step towards making your life less crazy and less busy.
But above all, let us dedicate this conversation to what is most important. The song that I hear sung these days on everybody’s lips is, “The world is in such a crazy state these days.” I do not have to explain; you know what that means. You can be part of making the world a less crazy place by taking a stand, like I did with my friend on the phone, and claiming your life as a small, sovereign territory that is neither crazy, nor busy, but just right.