I will admit it: Somewhere between 2002 and 2017, I lost my time. More like it slipped away from me even as productivity tools vowed a promised land of efficiency and calm. Nary a one delivered. In fact, in the words of Henry David Thorough, I had become the tools of my tools. And I was failing miserably.

Breakdowns and Seeing the Light

It’s possible to celebrate our breakdowns, for they invite us into new conversations with ourselves and with our teammates, colleagues, clients, families and friends. These new conversations allow for new choices and ultimately may lead to a renegotiation of conditions of satisfaction. Through this framework, I learned the importance of aligning my action with my care. Not cares, mind you: The work begins with getting very clear about care.

Back to the Beginning: Can a Person Have Too Many Cares?

The suggestion that I narrow down the list of my cares seemed like madness at first. But I care about so many things! I soon learned about the deceptiveness of this lens. In caring for so much, I was limiting my ability to both make and keep promises, limiting the impact I wanted to make in the world. It was at this point I began the process of honing in on what I care about and how I care. Things dropped away. My care for meeting every request tossed my way shifted to acceptance of only those projects that aligned deeply with my care. I began a new relationship with managing my capacity. I hired an assistant, realigned commitments, began focusing more narrowly and said “no.”

I have a client with two young children and a burgeoning business. She refers to this period as her “haggard years.” I wonder if, as women, we are particularly susceptible to overload and managing in the domain of care. Or is this belief is just an artifact, a relic we unconsciously cling to and reify in our constant plight to care for the entire world?

Emotion as Barometer and Thermometer

The evidence is readily available to me, and to all of us if we are willing to shift our focus back to embodiment. I am my cares and my breakdowns. My body knows it way before my cognitive awareness kicks into gear. It shows up as a tightening in my chest and a lead-like feeling in my solar plexus.

Mood is one of the greatest sources of information about how we are doing as a team in moving our work forward and keeping our promises. A team in a funk is unlikely to be as successful as one with “funk awareness” and a capacity to call out breakdowns and make requests to renegotiate.

It’s All Good

When we know our care intimately and are deeply in touch with our embodied experience, we are in the sweet spot. Work flows, we coordinate action in seamless ways, and breakdowns become a part of the path, not something to avoid. Conditions of satisfaction, a cornerstone of this work, are easily articulated and activated.

Practice Tips

Two Ways to Increase Your Embodied Awareness

  • Practice reflection three times per day. Set your watch and note what is happening in your emotional and somatic experience when the alarm rings.
  • Increase your vocabulary: Emotions are a subtle experience. Find your nuance in naming and describing your subtle state to increase your awareness.

Two Steps to Hone in on Your Cares

  • Be patient with yourself. Track your cares in a journal, and pay attention to themes and recurring cares.
  • Declare a care. Try it on for size. Spend a month deeply exploring your relationship to a care. Is it sticking? Is this what you really care about?

Three Conversational Moves to Release Time Starvation

  • Reorient your relationship to time. Make your schedule your friend by blocking out regular, consistent time for conversation, self-care and focused doing.
  • Hiring an assistant was one of my best moves. Not only did I gain time, but I released the psychic load of holding open schedule items.
  • Be a superhero and own your breakdowns. Lead the way in making requests for help and renegotiating promises.