When I first got bitten by the yoga bug over a decade ago in London I had a very busy career at the Financial Times which I loved, but which (I can see now) I gave too much of my time and energy which left my life very out of balance. Something needed doing late or at the weekend? I’ll do it! No Problem. I’m your girl! I was super-committed, successful and ambitious. I also had the balance of my life waaaay out of whack and my personal life was crumbling.
When I found that first yoga class (a Beginners course very like the one I teach today) I felt such an overwhelming and unexpected sense of relief and peace. It scared me actually: I didn’t know that that feeling was it was so long since I had felt it.
I knew it was something I had to pursue. Pretty soon I was there 3 times a week, even when I moved across London I loved the teacher Simona so much I would schlep all the way from Shepherds Bush to Clapham and back for her classes and not mind one bit. It really was a revelation for me.
It was a revelation for my working hours too. I developed my own ‘naughty step’ technique for getting out of work on time no matter what. I realised that when you are running a newspaper everything is always urgent, there is always something that needs to be done. I also knew that there was now something I wanted more: to practice yoga, to learn more, to feel that feeling. So on Mondays and Thursdays I started leaving the office at 4.55pm which was unheard of for me. The stuff kept landing on my desk, people rocking round expecting me to handle things at that time just as I had for the previous 6 or 7 years. But, I still left. I chose the thing I wanted more, to get the feeling that I got at the end of class and to improve my new yoga practice.
Yes for those first four or five weeks I had some heated discussions, and yes I let some people down, and yes some other people grew their skills through some inspired delegation. But, the paper came out, the world continued to turn. And then, do you know what, the last minute requests stopped, on Monday and Thursday the Head of Production might rock over and say “now I know Thursday is your yoga night but can you look at this tomorrow morning?” or my staff would step up and say “ I’ll clear that last page boss, you get on to class”. And off I would go. And I never missed a class from then on despite having a senior job in a highly deadline oriented business. My career continued to go from strength to strength too. Probably because I was more relaxed and had more balance.
If my former workaholic self can do it: you can do it. You can be there and make that time for yourself each week. It’s a case of training the people you work with much the same way you would train a toddler what is and is not okay behavior a la Supernanny. The key is in being clear what you want, consistently voicing it and following through regardless of the reaction you get. In short it’s the Yogic Naughty Step.
1. Voice. What is it you WANT? Be clear with yourself so you don’t get distracted in the moment by passing momentary tasks. eg. I want to feel flexible and relaxed by Easter. I want to give myself that hour and a quarter to myself each week in class. I want long term health and wellbeing. Diarise it. Commit to yourself.
2. Choice. Wait for the inevitable last minute thing that’s just so important that it has to be done RIGHT NOW to come up. Assess it calmly…be aware of the choice that you are making. Choose to be able to stand a moments discomfort as you say ‘That will have to wait until the morning, I have an appointment now’. No need to explain or apologise.
Choose a moments discomfort so you can have what you really WANT. If it’s really that important someone else will step up and do it. Really.
3. Follow Through. Go do your thing: guilt free! Do your yoga class, go for that run, have the weekly ball game with the kids. Whatever your thing is that you want.
Next week when it inevitably happens again repeat the same thing “That will have to wait until the morning, I have an appointment now”. Consistency is key.
Rinse and repeat. Before you know it you will have reclaimed that time, and the last minute requests will stop.
It’s a funny thing but once you consistently respect your time other people will too.