Doing Nothing: Resisting the attention economy

We’re all getting it all the time. Here’s how to focus on not focusing on everything:

Have You Ever Wondered Whether You Were Coming or Going?

A phrase often used when life becomes very busy and very hectic. When we are in these times, it can seem as though we are running in circles.

And yes, if you were literally running in a circle, it would be extremely difficult to determine if you were coming or going.

I am well familiar with this phenomenon as I have experienced it repeatedly in my life. Particularly over the last several months, hence I have missed my blogs the last two weeks. I have in fact really missed writing them.

I remember sometimes throughout my college years at the end of an intense semester, I would come home and catch some kind of bug that would stop me in my tracks for several days. I later became convinced that this was the result of literally running myself down into the ground. Pure exhaustion! My body’s way of telling me to stop, but it never did until the semester ended. Interesting!

As I’ve experienced these times, I have realized that they are just part of the ebbs and flows of life. These periods might look like this:

  •  Two large projects almost complete, a new big project has come in and it needs immediate attention so that it can get started off on the right foot (if I could just wait until I finish these other two, they are so close). It’s also the end of the school year so every evening, it seems, is filled with a band concert, choral event, awards ceremony or any number of other things that go on at the end of a school year. To make matters worse, two organizations that you volunteer with are in the midst of a huge capital fundraising campaign (or in my case, it’s Arbor Day season). Everything seems to be happening at once. I’m sure you are quite familiar with this kind of drill.

When I find myself in one of these hectic times, I have found 4 things that really help me cope, and not only cope, but to find happiness along the path and through it all.

  1. Define an ending point. This is critical. If you can’t find one, make one. Schedule a vacation or long weekend get-away. Schedule this well in advance so that you make sure all projects will have a resting point.
  2. Create a 5-minute fun diversion every day. Some may say meditate and that is fine if you love meditating, but I have found there are many people that find meditating stressful. This is 5 minutes that is all about you.
  3. Prioritize. Take a few minutes to look at why you are so busy. Is there something that could wait? Sometimes I have something I really want to get done, but if I stop and look at it, I find I could finish it at a later time. In other words, it’s a self-imposed constraint and not necessarily a project deadline. Other self-imposed constraints I have found are dietary constraints or exercise routines. Sometimes these things can in themselves provide us relieve and stress reduction but other times they can become something else on the to-do list and add to the stress level. For short periods of time, it is okay to let these type things to slide.
  4. Re-affirm to yourself, why you are in this situation. Is it the result of a promotion or potential promotion? i.e. is it somehow going to better your life? If you can’t find that reaffirmation, then maybe it’s time to stop and dig a little deeper.

Soulful Quote:

Take time to smell the roses – every day!” My twist to an old saying.


“Running on Empty,” by Jackson Brown         

Game Exercise/Life Changer:

Learn how to create a 5-minute diversion and practice it daily.

Ideas? Find a nice park bench and enjoy a coffee or tea or maybe a piece of fruit, or better yet, an ice cream. While on the park bench, people-watch or force yourself to think of fun things (dare I say, dream!). You can do the same, walking around the block or in a park. This activity is five minutes doing what you find fun, and yes, there is something for everyone. Having trouble? Let me know, I’m sure I can help.


Have you ever wished you would have “thought of that sooner?”

Recently I was giving a “lunch & learn” presentation at a nationally-recognized corporate headquarters: Think “duck,” quack, quack. The presentation was connected to Arbor Day, which this year – for me anyway – feels like it’s happening every weekend. (Back to the movie “Groundhog Day?”)

There was a good attentive crowd in attendance. I am always thankful to enjoy an opportunity to speak in front of an audience and spread a positive and happy message. And being connected with Arbor Day, what can be more inspiring than talking about trees and people?

Talking trees and people.Kids planting trees for Arbor Day Columbus TREES celebration

I mean, after all, we can’t talk about trees without talking about people. Think about it. Don’t people control the trees? So, if we talk trees, we inevitably have to talk people, right?

But, I digress. Back to my original question: Have you ever had someone ask you a question, a question that sort of takes you by surprise? Then you answer, but several days later you think of how you should have responded? That’s what happened to me after giving this presentation. Someone came up after it was all over and asked, “you really have a good job, don’t you?”

“Uh, um … why yes, I do, at least on most days anyway,” I responded.

After several days of thought, I decided my response should have been, “Yes, my job is fun [or good or great] because I make it that way.”

The last several weeks have kept me busy with quite a few Arbor Day celebrations (remember, National Arbor Day is one date; but various communities and areas of the country celebrate throughout year and many are in the spring). Subsequent tree plantings have taken a toll on my time, so reflecting upon this week, I’m keeping the message short:

We all have “fun” and not “so fun” in our lives. Not just our jobs, but in all aspects of our lives.

Just remember fun is what you make it, as is life.

Soulful Quote:

“Life is what you make of it. You can make it easy on yourself or you can make it hard.” –  Deep Roy


Game Exercise/Life Changer:

List one think in your job or your life that you don’t considered to be “fun.” Now think of ways you can make it fun.