In the sports section of this paper yesterday a headline began: 'All Blacks: Overload leads to burnout. After gruelling test schedule, top players are in desperate need of some serious R&R.'
Our Boys in Black and the rest of the country as well, it seems to me.
Have you noticed how many people are saying how tired they are, how they're not functioning as effectively as they'd like, how they're just hanging in by the skin of their teeth until the Christmas holidays start? Perhaps my listening is different this year, but exhaustion seems more prevalent than in past years.
I believe this is an outcome of the increasing sense of overload that people (in all sizes of business) are telling me about - all through the year.
We might not be top athletes, but just like the All Blacks, there's a snowballing array of demands coming at most of us. The more we allow ourselves to be bombarded by 'stuff', the more likely we are to feel overwhelmed. Taken to extremes it becomes exhaustion of both brain and body.
Reflecting on this today I remembered an interview from 2005 between Sean O'Hagan of the Observer and British psychoanalyst and writer Adam Phillips, author of 'Going Sane'.
Here are a few excerpts from the interview.
Phillips: 'One of the best things we could do as individuals is allow ourselves to daydream more.'
O'Hagan: 'In this belief, of course, [Phillips] is in direct conflict with the thrust of our culture, which is geared to ever more activity; longer hours, more multi-tasking, always the need to keep up, or run at full pelt to try and catch up.'
Phillips: 'One of the more distracting things about capitalist culture is that there is no stupor, no time to vegetate. What I would suggest is more time wasting, less stimulation. We need time to lie fallow like we did in childhood, so we can recuperate.'
O'Hagan: 'It seems to be dawning on us that, although our lives are easier - that is to say, less poor, less threatened by disease and death, less prescribed by class, gender or race than the lives of our parents or our grandparents - they are nevertheless more pointlessly complex and, as a result, we seem to be more unhappy.
That unhappiness manifests itself... in a strange dissatisfaction with ourselves, and in our ability to be, for want of a better word, contented.' (You'll find the full interview here.)
These guys made sense to me and I'm sure you've also noticed the same paradox - that material wealth for many equals time-poverty and constant discontent. Just because we can fit more in doesn't mean we should.
Here's a question that you might like to join me in reflecting on over the Christmas holidays.
How can we make life simpler and enjoy it more?
And to help your thinking, here are a few thought-starters I'll be using myself:
1. Before taking on another commitment, I will ask myself, 'Does this fit with the life I choose to live?'
2. Am I saying 'no' to enough things?
3. When I'm about to buy yet another 'thing', I will stop and ask myself, 'Is this item going to make my life richer, or will it just make life more crowded and complicated? Is it a 'need' or a 'want'? Will it quickly become clutter?
4. I'll be re-evaluating my goals. (If you'd like help on goal-setting, see my article 'Why should people set goals?' http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10773122 )
5. Is there anything else I can do to simplify my life? For example, what can I give away, recycle, throw away?
And here are three actions that might be helpful:
6. Turn off the TV. Don't let it dominate your evenings. What messages are you putting in your sub-conscious just before sleep? (This is very easy for me - I hardly watch any TV!)
7. Give your mind time to slow down before you sleep. (Voracious reader though I am, I rarely read business books at night - they wire me up too much. Before bed is novel reading time - a delicious treat.)
8. It may seem like a contradiction, but 'plan' to do nothing. Make sure you've left 'fallow' time in your week, every week, and hopefully every day.
Less is more.
Have an awesome and truly blessed festive season. I'll be back next year.