At the Justice Conference in Chicago last month, local minister Rev. Harvey Carey provoked peals of laughter from attendees when he talked about people going from conference to conference, writing great ideas in their notebooks, going home mountain-top high, and then never applying those insights to their lives or work.
I laughed too, in the key of “What do you know about my life”?
In December last year, as part of my year-end audit, I banned myself from conference travel and business training—books, webinars, and web-courses—until I had recovered from FY 2015 and was practicing principles I’d already learned.
So I tracked Creating Change 2016 from a distance, sent goodwill to my peers at the Conference on College Composition and Communication, kept busy working locally, and bought nothing.
My bank account loved me for it. And I created room to rest, digest, and build/rebuild in ways that make sense for me.
Graphic and web branding specialist Brittany Melton (@xobritdear) advises early-stage freelancers and professional bloggers to do likewise: let aggressive marketing pass them by, and not over-invest in supplemental training during any period when they need to focus instead on implementing core practices. It’s core practices that will sustain us long term.
When we instead over-consume resources, we risk talking about doing, talking about planning, planning to do, planning to plan, and building up an amazing stockpile of planners; we meet with world-changers and are so inspired by their speech and example, but somehow we close the book, course, or conference, and routine life never changes.
This is such a waste of good resources, and there are better ways to operate. In an article on expressive and other regular forms of writing, Gregory Ciotti shares the psychological case for consistent action:
In both emotional intelligence and in hard sciences like mathematics, writing has been shown to help people communicate highly complex ideas more effectively. Writing helps eliminate ‘it sounded good in my head’ by forcing your hand; brains forgive fuzzy abstractions, prose does not. —Gregory Ciotti, July 15, 2016
Audit yourself. We’re in the third quarter of the year now. More importantly for me, whatever your schedule is, I’m in the third quarter of my year. I still have projects open that I thought I’d have completed in April. I have two proposals hanging in the ether. And there are eight books in various states of partly-read on my desk right now.
Regaining balance in the midst of a non-stop schedule has two equally essential parts: (1) insisting on stops and pauses and Sabbaths and weekends, so that life is no longer non-stop; and (2) committing to steady action that can clear commitments in a reasonable time.
Learn to force your own hand. I organized and took classes at a week-long intensive this time last month, and wrote my insights down immediately. I didn’t want to wait a month or more; I wanted to receive, evaluate, digest, and implement.
Because I know what it can be like. “So excited” becomes “Woah, look at all these emails I missed” and “Let me catch up with that” becomes “Remember that class? Great, distant memory.”
Wisdom requires more of us. Honor what you’re learning by doing something with it.