What driving off a brick wall taught me about how to show up at work

Leanne Buehler, Ph.D., Managing Partner & VP of Consulting SolutionsLeadershipLeave a Comment

I admit it. I am a rusher-arounder. I often find myself “kind of” doing several things at once, and none of them very well. I hurry from one obligation to the next: caught up in my calendar, the next meeting, deadline or phone call. I often leave the office with my head spinning, exhausted and not even sure what happened in the day or what I accomplished.

In full awareness of my rushing around-ness, I have been working for several years to cultivate a practice of mindfulness. When I think of it, I’ll attempt to pay attention to every drop of water that falls on my skin in the shower or notice each time I walk through a doorway and appreciate the transition of moving from here to there. Some days I’m more successful than others, but for some reason while at work, many of these attempts at mindfulness fall by the wayside.

My running around in “busyness” really hit me last month when I was backing out of my friend’s driveway with two of my kiddos in the van. Rather than paying attention to what I was doing, my mind was fast-forwarding to the next thing. And so, perhaps not unsurprisingly, I backed the van off the two-foot wall of their raised driveway, knocking over bricks and leaving the van in a precariously tilted angle. My gracious and understanding friends spent the next hour helping me build a ramp to get the van off the wall, and then together we repaired the driveway, brick by brick; all the while my five-year-old commenting, “Mom, you need to pay attention!” And he was right.

Rather than gaining efficiency by allowing my brain to be busy in something other than what I was doing, I ultimately ended up an hour behind due to not being present where I was.   

In digesting that lesson, I’m focused on creating a new habit at work. I’ve recently been attempting to be intentional about “segments” of my day. By that I mean, each time I start a new phase of the day, I stop for one minute and consider how I want the time to go. Like yesterday, when I got in my car on a snowy Boulder morning, my intention was to arrive at work safely. Or before I walk into a difficult meeting, I’ll set the intention to listen and provide honest and wise counsel. Or before meeting with my team, I’ll intend to create inspiration, understanding and purpose.

In getting more disciplined with being clear about my intentions for each segment of my day, I find things seem to turn out better. When I am thoughtful about what I want to happen, I’m more likely to contribute to making it so.

I had the pleasure to observe a similar practice with one of my K-12 clients. Before each meeting, they take one minute of silence, to allow everyone to get grounded, present and consider the intention of the meeting. And while that ritual may not fit in every organization, it is certainly something we can all do on our own so that we make the most of the time rather than being taken over by the whirlwind of our responsibilities and wandering minds.

I have a long way to go in perfecting this art of being intentional about each segment of my day. But at a minimum I’m finding I’m clearer in my role and how I want to show up, I’m connecting better, and I’m being more efficient in accomplishing the things that are important to me and my success. Of course, “perfection” isn’t the goal, and I’ll never be present for every moment, but hopefully with some intentionality I’ll have fewer run-is with brick walls!

What strategies do you use to manage the busyness of work?