Lots of people put Post-It notes on their monitor to remind them of important stuff. Mostly passwords they can’t remember.
I only have one.
It has two words written on it in black ink.
Your first thought might be that I have a problem with nodding off during mind-numbing conference calls, (I sometimes want to but that’s not why I have this message tacked to my monitor).
It’s a little more subtle and useful than the not-falling-asleep version of waking up. I have a different kind of challenge. I can get so lost in thinking, doing and reacting that I fall into a trance. Not the super-productive-zenlike-flow sort of trance but the 5-hours-just-went-by-and-I-have-no-idea-where-I’ve-been sort of trance.
I’ll suddenly pop back into consciousness and notice that my body is tense, my mind is weary and I feel anxious. I know I’ve been super busy but doing what? Did I miss anything important while I was gone? How have I been acting?
I wasn’t paying attention.
Another thing I’ve observed is that when I am in this mode I tend to be more reactionary and prone to stress. It’s a state of heightened tension as opposed to a state of heightened awareness. It’s like tunnel vision. I don’t deal well with interruptions or unexpected events and I miss passing opportunities.
In other words…
- I stop listening.
- I stop learning.
- I stop noticing.
- I stop sensing.
- I stop feeling.
I’m asleep with my eyes open.
The message on my monitor reminds me to check-in with myself. To notice the state of my mind, body, and emotions. To break the narrow trance of doing or reacting and pay attention.
It literally feels like waking up.
I take a deep breath and pause for a moment to consider if what I am doing is the best use of my time. Am I in a state that allows me to do me best work and be the kind of person I want to be for others?
I let go of the anxiety and tension. I might even laugh a little at how absurd it is that I’ve been so consumed by mostly trivial things.
I’ve created space.
In this new space, I can refocus and make better choices. I might go back to what I was doing but with a more clarity. I feel lighter.
I might also become aware that there are more important things that should be getting my attention. I see new connections and approach problems with a deeper perception and understanding. I’m more available to people who need me and I can see them more clearly.
Waking up is like the feeling you might get if you found yourself in the busy part of a large city with which you are unfamiliar and without a GPS or map. At first, you are overwhelmed with details and confused by the maze of streets and buildings. Everything is a blur. Suddenly, you recognize a landmark and the tension drops. Everything looks different because now you know where you are.
That landmark for me is a little yellow Post-It note on my monitor. Without a doubt, I’m more effective as a leader, (and everywhere else in my life), when I practice waking up.
Perhaps you’re familiar with this lost-in-the-big-city state of mind. If so, why not give the wake-up-post-it note a try. It’s pretty easy to build one yourself. If you need help, I’ll gladly send you a completely assembled version for the low, low price of only $9.99 plus shipping and handling.
“When one realises one is asleep, at that moment one is already half-awake.”
― P.D. Ouspensky