Do you ever feel like there is so much information being thrown at you, that your head might just explode? Oh dear, I sound like the start to a self help book! Every day, more information is being given to me, piling into my mind like a huge sack of wheat, more and more, heavy and heavier, it’s constant. Whether it is the notes I am learning, daily responsibilities that need to get done, emails, phone calls, practicing, fundraising, meetings, helping with homework, shopping, cooking, cleaning, swimming classes for my children. I feel like I am constantly moving and the information just keeps coming, my brain whirring, like the constant hum of the washing machine which also needs my attention!
I began the new year as usual, with overly optimistic resolutions which included a daily habits journal inspired by the wonderful James Clear (if you don’t know his name, I highly recommend his book Atomic Habits). The idea was, that if I want to get more done, I had to break big tasks down into small, manageable, DAILY habits. This has to be done with achievable, well-meaning daily planning sessions during which you have to be realistic! I am afraid to say I have failed, it is March and my daily habit journal began seeping away somewhere in the middle of February, when the demands of trying to achieve too much, too soon broke my resolve. I became too focused on one thing and the balance of slowly chipping away at lots of different things dissolved until finally, it capsized!
I often think about the demands of a professional athlete and wonder how someone like Serena Williams, Mo Farah or even Tom Brady manage to stay on top of their game. Granted, these elite athletes probably have lots of paid help to kick them out out bed in the mornings, assistants scheduling their days to achieve the maximum results, help with maintaining good habits, someone making sure they push their bodies and minds to the absolute max while also insisting on them getting enough sleep and rest.
I wonder what your secret is to staying on top of everything? Do you prioritize your fitness and mental well-being, or does your work always come first, after all, that’s the one that pays the bills! Are your children your priority? Your home and family life? For most of us, the answer lies somewhere in between. I have always joked with my family that if I didn’t have my violin or music in my life I would be a terrible person to be around. I would become grumpy, moody and unbalanced but I have to find a way to maintain the balance. How does one achieve success at being the best version of yourself all the time? A bigger question for me is knowing when to stop pouring myself into the thing I’ve become so engrossed in (usually my violin), step away and start something else that also needs my attention. I like to complete tasks in one big swoop, rather than only attempting a realistic part and then stepping away.
When I wake in the morning, I view myself as a full tank of gas. Throughout the day the demands of my job, my family life and all my responsibilities take away a little of my energy and by the end of each day my tank is well and truly empty. If I had to step back and analyze how I’d used up that energy each day, I would probably find that I hadn’t necessarily used it in the right way for the most effective outcome. Would I have more energy left over if I’d used my tank differently? It’s so hard to break bad habits. I know that when I’m on a roll practicing my violin, it’s like being sucked into a time-vortex. Hours go by and I’m so ‘in the zone’ that yes, most of my tank gets used. The rush of making musical progress is a high like no other. But, as with every high, what goes up must come down. And so, I pick myself up and start again.
Next week will be a huge mountain to climb. Our wonderful friend Guy Johnston arrives to perform Piano Trios with us. We have two days of rehearsals, two concerts, four school performances and all the while I am busy planning our next two concert seasons. Venues and artists need to be booked, contracts signed, the repertoire needs to be finalized, more schools need to be booked, the budget organized etc etc. The list goes on! I am so excited by the prospect of it all but I also need to set realistic goals and expectations for myself and vow to stick to them. I have to chip away with my small DAILY habits and, somewhere in there, remember to breathe once in a while. A mountain starts with just one stone… Today, I can probably only move just one small stone, and tomorrow is another chance to do better!