Tuesday Tales: Could you use more time? – Donna Thistlethwaite

Time … It feels like the challenge of our times. Most people I speak to are busy, frantic and/or overwhelmed. There never seems to be enough hours in the day as we jump from activity to activity from dawn to sundown.

But what is the cost of all this busyness on our wellbeing? And how does it affect our ability to be present and enjoy our lives? Might we actually be more innovative, and potentially productive, if we slowed things down and allowed some space to recover, to think, to receive inspiration?

Brene Brown certainly thinks so.

Today I received an email from her outlining some upcoming changes in her life and organisation. Brene is taking a 14 week sabbatical over the northern summer to breathe and create space. Their company’s office is also closing on Fridays so that their people can take paid restorative time off. Their team has also been given four weeks paid vacation time in addition to their standard entitlements. You can get the full rundown here.

What I most loved about Brene’s message is the fact that some of their activities are stopping during this time, eg. her podcast is also taking a break. They anticipate that the rest will recharge them for their next audacious goals.

I have recently been involved in surveying Australian HR professionals about their wellbeing since the pandemic. One of the standout themes was the lack of time they have to recover or to invest in their mental wellbeing. Many are the busiest they’ve ever been and they were already a busy profession.

Half of the 469 survey respondents said that they would like additional time off to maintain their wellbeing, however, I would question whether this is a viable solution without other supporting changes. You see many feel unable to access current leave for their wellbeing because of workload, lack of resources, time and negative impact on other team members.

Coincidentally I had a conversation with a gym friend this morning about time and priorities. While we both agreed we wished there was more time for exercise (note we’d both prioritised the spin class this morning); she told me that she had reprioritised her life as a result of a couple of unexpected life events that reconnected her with what was truly important to her. Losing her son-in-law and father six months apart last year had reminded her how life short is and what really matters to her.

She now works part-time so that she can have a day looking after her grandchild AND a day entirely to herself. A day when she can choose to do whatever takes her fancy – catching up with her daughter or friends, exercising, … whatever grabs her.

While it is great for my friend that it is financially an option to work part-time, I appreciate that this might not be the case for everyone. But maybe it’s more possible than we assume. Perhaps with some supporting tweaks to our lives? I also think organisations might consider taking a leaf out of Brene’s book to potentially achieve better organisational outcomes and support the wellbeing of their teams.

Last night I was tempted to work because I’m having a big week. But this is not a habit I want in my life. Instead, I helped my son create a game for him and his cousin to play, after overcoming his insistent requests to put the TV on. This is what matters to me – connection, presence, play, love …

How are you spending your time? Is it on what really matters to you? Is it time to make some changes?

As I reflect on these questions, my commitment to myself, and you, to post a weekly Tuesday Tale comes to mind. Maybe it won’t be every week. Maybe my commitment to myself is better served by allowing myself off the hook to focus on other priorities from time to time.

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Donna Thistlethwaite is a Brisbane-based speaker and trainer specialising in mental health and resilience. She is an accredited Mental Health First Aid Instructor and Resilience at Work Facilitator with a passion for suicide prevention and for helping individuals, teams and organisations to THRIVE. You can find out about her next Mental Health First Aid courses here.

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