I’m going to write the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever read. Ready? Exhaling is an essential part of breathing.
If you’ve ever gone on a run, taken a yoga class, meditated, or just tried to control your temper, you know that you need to focus actively on breathing out. Done right, you might spend twice as long exhaling as you do inhaling. And it feels incredible! You’ll immediately notice the effects.
Breathing out is powerful, yet I constantly forget to do it — both physically and mentally.
I Never Breathed Out
In my professional life, I never took the time to exhale. I was constantly breathing in. I was always sucking in new ideas, reading blog posts, browsing Twitter, attending PD, going to conferences.
Everything was input.
I never gave myself time to reflect; to think; to digest all of that information. As a result, I was uptight, nervous, and frantic – just like when I don’t allow myself to exhale physically.
Try inhaling as much as you can while breathing out as little as possible. It’s incredibly uncomfortable! And it’s the perfect metaphor for my mental and emotional state as a teacher.
You Have Enough Air Already
If I could go back and observe myself as a teacher, I would see someone who had gathered hundreds of “ideas” but had no plan. There was no strategy to my endless inhaling. I was just frantically flopping from new idea to new idea.
I think this is a common situation. We like to inhale information. It feels active and productive. And, if you’ve got a phone in your hand, there is always more inhaling that you can do!
No wonder I felt so overwhelmed. I was sucking more air into already-full lungs.
Friend, you almost certainly have enough input. You have enough ideas for now. You don’t need to read any more articles. You don’t need another conference. Your lungs are bursting. You need to take the time to exhale.
It Looks Like Nothing, But It’s Everything
Now, the paradox is that this mental exhaling looks (and feels) suspiciously like doing nothing. I purposefully leave my laptop behind. I don’t bring a book. I sit there and stare into space with nothing more than a pen and pad. Yet it’s the most productive time I spend all year.
I do a small version every Friday afternoon. Just an hour or so to reflect on what happened this week and a chance to make sure I know what I’m doing next week (or else I’ll just jump from random idea to random idea all week and nothing important will get done).
I’ve also started doing full-day versions of this. Initially it was an annual event, but it proved so valuable that it shifted to twice a year and is now quarterly. This practice has been transformational. You can read the full details of those full-day retreats here. That piece is a bit more business-focused than my writing at Byrdseed, but perhaps you’ll find it useful!
I’ll say it again. Implementing a regular time to exhale has been transformational for me. If you’re in a leadership position, this is going to be twice as important because then the folks that you supervise will feel less frantic as well.
It’s Not Urgent. But It Is Important.
I know. You have a bunch of excuses about why you can’t possibly do this. But this is a matter of urgent versus important. Block out some time to do some big thinking and process all of the ideas you’ve been accumulating. Make a plan.
And let me know how it goes: firstname.lastname@example.org