What I Needed to Unlearn

As you may know, I spent 15 years as a litigation attorney.  Lawyers track their time in 6-minute increments.  Imagine for a minute that you need to divide your 8-hour work day into 80 unique time entries and LOG THEM every.single.day.  This was my life for 15 years. 

As you can imagine, every single minute of my day was accounted for.  I relentlessly ticked items off my to-do list.  EXTREME productivity was my superpower – my firm hired THREE attorneys to replace me when I went out on maternity leave.  #badasslawyerbabe

I grew resentful when someone “wasted” my time shooting the breeze or showing up late.  I hated watching those precious minutes tick by.  Time was a commodity that needed to be wisely spent + invested. 

In fact, my to-do list became like a program constantly running in the back of my mind – reminding me of what needed to be done next – so I could seamlessly transition from one task to another.    

As I started my career as an executive coach, I maintained the same intensity.  I packed my schedule full of meetings.  I had networking events every night.  I managed my business in the scraps of time in between.   

It was like I was the car constantly changing lanes in a traffic jam, trying to get to my destination faster than everyone else.  You know when it seems like you are in the slowest lane, no matter which lane you pick?  That’s how I felt, so I leaned harder into my productivity trying to stay out of the SLOW lane.   

This habit of EXTREME productivity that had served me SO WELL as an attorney no longer served me as an executive coach. 

I needed to STOP relentlessly checking things off my to-do list and allow myself some space to rest, think, and create. 

I needed to turn off the program running in the background. 

I needed to stay in my own lane – even if it felt like I was crawling.

I needed CREATE a future that looked and felt different from my past. 

First, I focused on building awareness around my compulsion.  Awareness is the first step towards change. 

Second, I experimented with having two days a week that are “to-do” list free.  My first Wednesday without a to-do list, I was literally itchy.  It was SO uncomfortable.  I just meandered around my house making lists in my head and reaching for my journal. 

Third, I silenced the to-do list running in the background.  If I’m feeling like I just HAVE TO post to Instagram and cross it off my list <which sounds SO STUPID when I type it out 🤦>, I consciously choose to do something else instead.

Now, I’m working on how I perceive time.  I’m shifting my perspective away from time as a commodity and towards the spaciousness of time. 

I’m working on staying in my lane, knowing that I will get to my destination <maybe even in the same amount of time> and will likely have a happier, safer, and less stressful journey.    

Amazingly, I still do everything that needs to be done - just at a less frenetic pace and with a more focused mind.