It occurred to me while I was teaching my daughter to swim the other day that the phrase ‘to sink or swim’ in a situation is inaccurate. What happened to floating as an option?! We often don’t give our subconscious brains enough credit for the nuggets of gold they hold, if we’d only be still long enough to hear them. So let’s help break the cycle of burn-out behaviour and spend a little time floating.
Floating can be perfect if you want to relax or give yourself some time to look around you and see what’s going on.
In fact, my daughter swam much better just after she’d had a float than when she’d been continually flapping her arms and legs trying to make progress.
Floating is reflection and consolidation time. It’s time for our brain and our bodies to absorb all the new information they have just learnt.
Relentless swimming is no good for anyone.
In the context of working with early-career professionals, and particularly with women, I find that they are very rarely given the option to just ‘float’ for a bit. This drive to always be ‘swimming’ with 100% effort and using all your energy is productive in short bursts for sure, but it’s not sustainable. And the way that this constant, relentless activity is maintained is by fear, the fear of ‘sinking’ or of being ignored, forgotten or passed over.
By not offering or encouraging the option to float, these professionals on the starting blocks of their careers are simply learning how to create the perfect storm for burn-out and imposter syndrome further down the line.
Floating is reflection and consolidation time. It’s time for our brain and our bodies to absorb all the new information they have just learnt and make the links with all the information that already exists. It’s where we take what’s new and make it ours.
I found by accident on one occasion that reflection time gave my brain the space it needed to give me the answer to something I’d been searching for in meetings all day. It was on a short flight after a day-long meeting and because the length of the flight didn’t give me the time to get into any work and I had no internet signal, I sat back and ‘daydreamed’ for 30 minutes, something I would never have done had it not been imposed on me. In these 30 minutes, I processed everything that had happened during the day and fitted it together with a few bits of information that I’d gleaned from other places and lo and behold, by the time we landed I had a wonderful solution.
Our ‘always on’ culture
I worry that our ‘always-on’ culture which has been exacerbated by the shift to working from home means that we’re getting less and less ‘accidental’ floating time. This means that the early-career professionals aren’t seeing it in action and they aren’t being taught about its value.
Schedule in reflection time
I talk to my mentees about the need to schedule in reflection time on a daily, weekly and monthly and annual basis. They each have different purposes but if we don’t put it in the diary then it just gets forgotten in the swimming race. On a daily basis, a 1-5 minute break can make all the difference. You could try the @findyourwingsuk 1 minute videos posted regularly at lunchtime under the #mindfulminute on Facebook and Instagram. These are intended as a way to reset for the afternoon and float for a minute. In the longer sessions each month or year, there should be a little more time given and a structure or some prompting questions considered.
We often don’t give our subconscious brains enough credit for the nuggets of gold they hold, if we’d only be still long enough to hear them. So if you have a team, explain and demonstrate the value of floating and if you’ve never tried it for yourself, why not take 1 minute now to switch off from the to-do list, take some deep breaths and say ‘hi’ to your subconscious and ask what it has for you today.
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