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A simple rule for if you’re lost in the weeds

A simple rule for if you’re lost in the weeds

Have you ever had to walk through a dense forest where there is no trail? It’s arduous. The underbrush is constantly pulling at your pant legs and often times the sky overhead is obstructed by a thick canopy of leaves and branches. It’s disorienting. After a while the foliage starts to look the same and there are few, if any, consistent landmarks. Moving over land this way is exhausting and slow.

I recently began working with a new client and, while I was not literally blazing a trail through a forest, it started to feel that way. I was so excited to roll up my sleeves and dive in to the work that I unwittingly wandered away from the (metaphorical) trail.

The more I tried to multi-task, the less I was able to accomplish. The more projects I tried to tackle, the less aware I was of the big picture. And the more I tried to get ahead of things, the more reactionary I became. I had essentially managed to get myself into a thicket.

As soon as I realized this was happening I started to backtrack. I needed to get back to the trail. For me, that meant getting back to being mindful.

When I started losing track of mindfulness, I was not meditating as much, I was not taking breaks away from my desk, and I was not keeping up with my writing. I felt busy–almost frantic–and mindfulness seemed like one more thing to do.

The truth is mindfulness is not just another thing to do, it’s the opposite: being mindful gives us space from having to do anything. When we pause, become aware of our surroundings, and appreciate our place in the world, we can just be.

To get back, I took a deep breath.
I looked for birds.
I worked in the garden.

When I started pulling up weeds I felt space opening up. When I breathed deeply I felt my body calming down. When I saw birds I saw life all around me–beautiful, colorful, fragile life.

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”  ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Stress overpowers peace. Without mindfulness we are constantly bushwhacking through a never-ending thicket of stress. When we are mindful we are more capable of finding peace and focusing on what matters.

Mindfulness is valuable for all aspects of our lives, and work is no exception. When stress consumes us we waste mental energy on trying to overcome it and miss opportunities to let go and move on. When we are mindful we act more deliberately, which results is more efficient work. When we approach challenges mindfully we see the big picture, ask more relevant questions, and uncover more simple solutions. We can prioritize appropriately and we have more time and more energy to devote to the top priorities.

Fortunately, if we can identify the feeling of bushwhacking through a dense forest, we can use mindfulness to find our way back to the trail.

It starts with taking a deep breath.