Take your time

Group of green sprouts growing out from soil
image: iStock / Getty

I’ve learned an important lesson over the past few months since my Dad passed away.

I always seem to be busy. There’s always a time, a line in the sands of time, that things have to be done by. And it’s always tight. Some things take many hours. I feel a constant time-pressure.

My To-Do list never gets any smaller. In fact, most days, unfinished tasks roll over to the next day so that my To-Do list gets bigger rather than smaller. Even when I finish something, there’s always a long list of other things that need my attention.

But during the last few months of Dad’s life, while his health declined and through his passing, I just wasn’t able to do everything I was previously doing. Dad needed help, Mum needed support, my sisters and I wanted to be around for Mum and Dad, and we made sure we were.

In the first few weeks after he passed, I was beginning to pick up most things again. But, and here’s the thing, I just didn’t feel like it.

Grief can have that sort of effect, I’m told. 

You just can’t be bothered. And for me, it wasn’t that I couldn’t be bothered doing what I do. I love what I do – writing, speaking, inspiring, teaching.

It was that I couldn’t be bothered being busy. That’s the distinction. 

I couldn’t be bothered with the feeling of pressure to get things done. It’s the time pressure, the busyness, that I’ve been rejecting, not the work itself.

I’m not sure if I ever want to go back to the way I’ve worked before. Not all the time, anyway. I’m sure there will be periods of time when I do have a lot of things on. Everybody has times like that. But I don’t want to let it be a permanent thing again, which is how it’s been for me, more or less, for the past decade. Fifteen or so years if I’m being honest.

I have to be vigilant because things have definitely got busier for me over the past two or three weeks again. It’s an easy trap to fall into. I have found myself working long hours again. But it felt wrong. 

So, I’ve pulled back again.

Doing this, the last few months have felt odd for me in some ways. Naturally, they feel strange because my Dad isn’t here anymore. I don’t know if I’ll ever fully get used to that. But odd in another way too. 

I’m so used to always having so much to do, with a near constant sense of time pressure, that I feel sort of guilty when I’m not flat out busy. I’m finding it’s a tough habit to break.

An anxious thought has arisen a few times. If I’m not flat out working, then everything will collapse and fall away. It’s funny how the mind works sometimes, isn’t it? I thought I’d be honest about this as I’m sure many can relate.

I grew up with the mindset that you have to work hard to make a living. Life was about hard graft. That’s what it was like for Mum and Dad when I was growing up. So now, if I’m not grafting flat out, struggling to get it all done, then I’m not doing it right. It will just fall away. I’ll fail.

But it’s just a belief, based on the experience I observed when I was a child.

It’s now just a habit of thinking and acting. But it’s a habit I’m determined to break.

As we move towards the end of 2022 and the beginning of 2023, I’ve decided to make some changes, prioritise things, learn to say no a bit better, lest I take on too many things.

I’ve already started to make changes. The practical is in pulling back a bit, resisting the temptation to fill up my schedule by saying “no”, “Maybe some other time”, or “I don’t have a spare slot in my schedule right now,” a bit more.

I wrote this blog because I feel that so many of us could do with taking our time a bit. So maybe look at how you can do things a bit differently. If there’s practical things you can change then go for it. If you’re unable to make practical changes, see if you can work on mindset changes.

I’ve been doing that too, because what if you can’t say no because there are things you still have to do? Here, the invitation is to change how you do them, or your thinking around them – what they mean, what impact they have, or what difference they make. 

Here’s an analogy. I had a day when I must have had to walk up the stairs in our house about a half dozen times in 15 minutes. I resisted it. “If I forget one more thing and have to go upstairs for it…,” I’d say in a kind of “Not again” voice. It was tiring, physically and mentally.

But then I leaned into it. Going up and down the stairs all day is great exercise, I reasoned. And even better if I concentrate on it as exercise while I do it. I’d be doing the same thing, walking up the stairs, but my thoughts about it were different.

Next time I had to go upstairs, I took the last ones two at a time with a smile on my face. It was easy. I enjoyed it. It was energising, in fact. All that changed was a thought about it.

If you can’t change some things, change how you think about them.

And one other thing. It can also sometimes help to just make a wee mindset shift towards reminding yourself that if something doesn’t get done then that’s that. No biggy! It’s not the end of the world. Your health is more important than completing any task.

I feel my Dad’s presence in these recent changes in my life. I feel he’s looking out for me, helping to guide me in a new way. That’s why I know this is a healthy change for me that I must persevere with.

So, I’ll end this blog with something I wrote in one of my “Daily Boost” emails a few weeks ago (I write these short inspirational emails every day – you can sign up on any page of my website).

A flower doesn’t rush to bloom. It just does its thing. You admire it all the same.

Don’t be in a hurry all the time to get things done. They’ll get done in the end. Or they won’t. Things will happen when they’re ready to happen. 

Or when you’re ready!

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  1. Teresa Corcoran on December 20, 2022 at 8:23 am

    Thank you. I particularly like the flower analogy .
    That’s a simple but effective thought..
    Happy Christmas. Regards Teresa xx

  2. Ann Kerray on December 20, 2022 at 8:24 am

    Thank you David , your blog always leaves me uplifted or thoughtful in a positive , grateful way!
    I have followed you since seeing you on the Heal documentary ! I love what you do and do find your words inspiring ! Your love for humankind and a desire to heal and help oozes from your words , spoken or written
    Thank you

  3. Jackie on December 20, 2022 at 8:25 am

    David, this is one of the most interesting Blogs for me. Thank you so much for sharing, I get busier and busier and I need to take a leaf out of your book, thank you for sharing. I lost my Dad 23 years ago and I was lost without him however I know he is still within me and all around, offering guidance and support.
    Wishing you peace, love and light. x

  4. Jan Filipovic on December 20, 2022 at 8:29 am

    I so enjoy your newsletters, thank you. A lovely positive force in my life. Merry Christmas and best wishes for 2023.

  5. Lisa on December 20, 2022 at 8:45 am

    Thank you, this made me feel really relaxed and positive. 🙂

  6. Pam Keri on December 20, 2022 at 10:12 am

    So true David, so true. Its so easy to feel that we should be busy all the time in order to do even half of the things that others do….Its an overwhelming time of year when I feel lots of ‘Should Do’ and I find my mind even more distracted than normal! There is pressure at Xmas to not forget anything , if you are being the host and I find myself in a bit of a daze. The main things that clear me are ….time in nature where I can reset….. time spent doing yoga….where I get more in touch with myself…and quiet time meditating. Thanks for writing this and in that way giving us all permission to pull back. Big hug to you

  7. Sarah Stewart on December 20, 2022 at 11:01 am

    Sorry for your loss, David.

    I can relate a lot to what you have shared… my crux used to be busyness, and I would cram my schedule full of activities and tasks to avoid being with my thoughts. Over the past few years I’ve been doing a lot of personal development and therapy, and am now an advocate of peaceful productivity.

    Regarding changing our thoughts, my 13 year old son picked me up on my language earlier this year when I said “I’ve got to…” and he suggested that I reframe it to “I get to…”. The work I’ve been doing has been watched by both my kids, and it’s nice to see that they’re paying attention! I did Danielle La Porte’s apple experiment with them this year, and I think that opened their eyes somewhat to the power of our words.

  8. Pamela Alexander on December 20, 2022 at 12:57 pm

    Dear Dr David,
    Please accept my condolences on your loss. May your dad rest in peace.
    Many blessings to your mum and to you to help you heal.
    The Universe is very clever at helping us through the difficult times, g-d tricks us like making us run up and down stairs repeatedly to get blood up to our brain where all the coping mechanisms are stored but we really just feel like sitting around.
    We don’t realise how our empathy can work against us and bring us down to the same place as our lost loved one. Woo woo helps wonderful people like you to know that you are loved and needed in this mortal realm and so you stay awake and strong by all those stairs to climb and we fans continue to be blessed by your existence. Thank you !

  9. Maria Hocking on December 20, 2022 at 3:10 pm

    Brilliant words as always. Time is so precious for sure. Having lost my 4 year old cocker spaniel this week to cancer, it’s been heart breaking but also a reminder that we wrongly assume that we will always have forever to do what we love with those that we love. Her passing has really made me realise that the simplest things often bring the most joy. X

  10. Maggie on December 20, 2022 at 3:33 pm

    I had to cancel everything in a packed diary when I had Covid. Although I was very unwell and in bed, I was aware of an enormous sense of relief that I was freed of all those commitments. I too decided to cut back and focus on what I enjoyed, though it’s really hard at times!

  11. Renate on December 20, 2022 at 9:37 pm

    Thank you David, specially for the last lines!

  12. Sue Rotheram on December 21, 2022 at 6:05 pm

    This resonated so much with me. I was a primary school teacher and never did reach the end of my to do lists! Eventually my body took charge, I developed alopecia, my life changed completely. Now years later, following early retirement and retraining as an Alexander Technique teacher I have learnt to take charge of my time, stop to feel the breeze and admire the beauty around me. Best wishes and thank you.

  13. Cheryl Mondorf on December 27, 2022 at 1:50 am

    Thank you David, your blogs, podcasts and books always make me feel better. I have learned how to be a kinder, better, more peaceful person I consider you a very dear, close friend. And I’m so sorry for the loss of your dad.

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