I am often asked how on earth do I find the time to do all the things I do in my business? It’s a question I am asked frequently and a question that over the years had changed in its response.
The key to my productivity (as seen from the viewpoint of others) and the inner satisfaction I feel that I can put my hand in my heart and speak to is not determined by external acknowledgement or success but is my ability to embrace silence in my life as often as I can.
To look at me you might not think this is the case. I imagine that at a first glance I would easily pass off in life as an extrovert. Whereas the reality is that I am an introvert who has learnt how to be an extrovert.
See I grew up in a household with five other siblings and two parents. The only times are house was quiet was when we were either sleeping, the house was empty or it was a Sunday afternoon and we were all too drunk from overeating a huge Sunday dinner. I used to listen into the quiet as my Dad got up at 5am to prepare for work. As I got older I would often get up and make my Dad’s sandwiches and a big mug of steaming Nescafe coffee and savour the quietness of those early mornings with him before the rest of the house was awake.
This early love of silence rubbed off on me and has been a constant thread throughout my life. To be honest without it I turn into a cranky, tetchy person in need of her quiet fix. So to keep myself sane and present in my life I go to great lengths to preserve quiet space in my day.
So on closer observation you will discover someone who will leave for work four hours earlier in the morning than she needs to just so she can get a bit of headspace on her commute into work. I’m the one who avoids sitting next to the chatters on their mobile phones or the two people in loud conversation with each other even though it’s only 6.29 am in the morning. I’m the one who will book the first train out of Kings Cross station just so I can have a quiet carriage all to myself.
Over the years I’ve come to recognise that it’s not how much we do that brings real success. I know that I have regularly experienced being more productive and generative when I allow my mind to rest, when I sink into a quiet thinking mind in my train seat or a quiet corner of a busy café or I duck out for a half an hours walk in the middle of a busy day.
Many years ago I attended a talk by a great life coach Laura Berman Fortgang who shared this quote that has always stayed with me, “Silence is the natural organiser.” Then years later when working with coach and entrepreneur Ken Barnes he shared another insightful fact that when you rearrange the words ‘silent’ you get the word ‘listen.’
When you intentionally embrace silence the quality of the way you listen to yourself and the world around you also shifts and changes allowing you to engage with life and work in more alive and meaningful ways. On the recent Happenista retreat the women participated in a silent walk out into the grounds where they were encouraged to connect with nature and some of the notable trees located on the grounds of the retreat centre. The woman wrote to one of the writing prompts from the Writing With Fabulous Trees Writing Map available here
This time alone in silence was an invitation for the women to indulge and delight in spending time in their own company, to listen inwards to the longing and urges of their own hearts. To enter into their own space where in the centre of silence they got in touch with important personal messages, insights and understandings about themselves at a deeper source.
It can be so easy to forget to harness this need for quiet space back in the routine of normal life, yet it is an essential requirement for growing your success and life work balance. It is through harnessing more silence and quiet that you will grow not only yourself but also your business.
Another way of creating quiet and stillness is to keep a journal. Using writing prompts or a process of asking yourself a question then writing out your response in your journal is a way of releasing your thoughts and feelings and clearing head space.
Cleared headspace allows room for new and fresh ideas to present themselves. It can pause those worrying and over thinking muscles allowing for alternative ways of thinking and solutions to seep through effortlessly.
This quality of thinking time is precious akin to what Nancy Kline describes in her book of the same name as, “Time To Think.” Your best thinking will come from the oasis of silent and quiet spaces you create in your day. To do more the key is to do and think less.
It took me less than 75 per cent of the time it would have taken me to write this article with my thinking head on which would have included obsessively worrying about saying the right thing, ensuring that what I write make sense and countless other should’s, ought’s and have to’s.
Instead what you are reading emerged seamlessly after two hours of quiet time in bed at the start of the week before launching myself into my day. Out of the stillness of lying in bed the words seeped through me with such ease and grace that I merely listened into the silence and transcribed what I heard word for word.
Whether it’s 5 minutes a day or 50 minutes a week my invitation to you is to start scheduling silent meetings into your day. You don’t have to tell others what you’re doing. You can disguise the meetings in your diary or calendar by giving it a cover name like meeting with new client, project planning or incubation time.
One client I know goes for a walk in a park close to where they work whenever they start to feel stressed or overwhelmed. Another decamps to a local café without the phone and sits quietly for twenty minutes or so maybe reading or writing in a journal or notebook. Make a note of cafes or public spaces that don’t play loud music close by where you work or live. If you live in London the book Quiet London is a gem. It lists cafes and public spaces that don’t play music and embrace quiet in their spaces.
Word of warning if you want to frequent a quiet chain of cafes in London avoid Prêt A Manger cafes. They insist on playing loud music from the moment their doors open at 6am which I think suits the young twenty year olds the company employs but is lousy for introverts who just long for a corner of quiet before the day kicks in.
Book in your quiet time, protect it as much as you can. Use the time to do nothing, daydream, and write in your journal or notebook. But most importantly give yourself that quiet time and space and notice the difference it makes. As American Life coach Michael Neil wrote in his newsletter this week. “The less you have on your mind, the higher your level of performance will be.”