Need some long-term downtime? (And secretly want to say 'no' to everyone?)

You’ve heard of FOMO. (Fear Of Missing Out, if you haven’t.)

You’ve heard of JOMO. (Joy Of Missing Out, if you haven’t.)

Well, I’ve just coined MOOP. (Missing Out On Purpose.)

There’s no fear in it, there’s probably not even much joy in it, but my god, there’s a whole hell of a lot of RELIEF in it.

It’s a pause button for everything—every obligation, relationship, task, event, chore, you name it.

When you’re MOOP-ing, you can respond with a friendly, “No, thanks!” to everything simply because, “I’m not adding anything to my calendar right now.” Or, “I’m not taking on anything new at the moment.”

MOOP-ing requires no explanation.

It stands on its own.

It’s something like a calendar status.

(Seriously, imagine if your calendar just stopped accepting new events for, say, an entire month or two. Like, it isn’t even your choice so much as it’s the calendar saying, “Nuh uh, no more, I’m too full.” What would you tell people? “My calendar isn’t working right now, so I’d better decline for the time being.” Brilliant.)

If you need some downtime—far and beyond the standard out-of-office-for-a-week-or-two level of downtime—try MOOP-ing for the foreseeable future.

Sure, some folks will get their feathers ruffled over it. (Loving family members won’t. Truly good friends won’t. You most loyal clients probably won’t.) But they’ll survive. So will you. And everyone will move on eventually. Only you’ll be in better shape to do so because you MOOP-ed when you felt like MOOP-ing.

This isn’t a Dr. Seuss book, I promise.

It’s a real bid for you to see that you don’t have to do anything. Not truly.

I mean, aside from breathing, sleeping, eating, and drinking water, anything we think we have to do is actually only a thing we might want to do if we don’t like the consequences of not doing it.

An example for you: showing up to your job. You don’t have to do it. You’re not actually compelled to do it in the way you’re compelled to consume calories for survival.

However, not showing up to work comes with consequences. One of those might be losing your job and therefore losing your source of income. If you’re not keen for that to happen (and who would be?!), you’ll show up to work every day you’re expected to.

But let’s be clear: It’s not because you have to; it’s because the consequences of not doing it are undesirable to you.

Anyway, the upshot here is to experiment every once in a while with missing out on purpose. Especially if you finding yourself wincing at every request or invitation that comes down the pipeline. It’s a small shift I’ve suggested to clients who will tell you they’re the better for it.

Because after all, no one likes to hang out with someone who doesn’t actually want to be there; no one wants to hear bitter complaints from someone who said ‘yes’ when she wished she said ‘no’; no one will advocate for your time and energy like you can…

So, do it.

Self-advocate.

MOOP, and see what happens (if anything—there’s a chance no one will even notice).

Struggling to manage your inbox? (And need a better way?)

Do you ever feel as though you’re barely staying on top of your email correspondence, let alone your text messages, Instagram direct messages, Facebook private messages, etc.?

I know I do.

And maybe I’m a bit of an outlier, but I’m partial to having one inbox that I open only when I’ve got the bandwidth to make decisions and take action in it.

Back in college, there was a poetry professor who was known for refusing to use email. Even as Goucher announced that email was the official form of communication for the college (this was circa 2001), this particular professor just didn’t want to get on board.

Suffice it to say, I bet she’s using email now.

The thing is, we can put all kinds of boundaries in place around our time and attention, whom we allow to access it and when, but the truth of the matter is: There’s got to be a better way of coping than to just shut it down completely.

(Though, between you and me: I do have fantasies of developing an app that creates out-of-office messages for every imaginable account, so I don’t leave anyone hanging, but also don’t have to remember to check and reply within so many damn inboxes!)

Inboxes aren’t going away. Not anytime soon, at least.

And your current read-but-don’t-reply-for-a-week (-or-more) method doesn’t sound particularly empowering.

It sounds like it takes a lot of energy…with very little reward.

You read through your emails and get everyone’s bids (requests for feedback, for time to chat, for favors, for attention in the form of a simple ‘hello’) on your mind, but if you don’t have the actual time or mental bandwidth to answer them right then and there, when you opened the email in the first place, you wind up carrying the weight of those bids forward…with no designated time to set them down.

Sounds heavy.

And oddly time-consuming, even though the whole thing was that you didn’t have time to reply to the emails in the same moment in which you opened them.

It’s time for a new way.

This new way is simple as all get-out. No fancy systems for filing or categorizing emails. No alerts. No extra time needed.

What I propose is this:

An email doesn’t get opened unless it’s going to be dealt with (i.e. answered, filed, or deleted) right then, in that very moment.

If you don’t have the time or bandwidth to make decisions (i.e. to answer, file, or delete your emails), you don’t have the time or bandwidth to be in your email inbox.

Close it. Walk away. Do something (or nothing) else.

But for the love of all that’s holy, don’t do that halfway thing where you open All The Emails and allow all those requests to pile up in your mind—and then you try to move on to the next thing on your list.

It just doesn’t work. You’ve now tied up psychic energy in an unfinished thing, which is an everyday masochism that can absolutely be avoided.

Now, what this might mean is that on a given day, you’ve got 70 unread emails in your inbox, all of varying importance, and perhaps that stirs up some overwhelm or panic.

If that happens, take a deep breath.

Find yourself ten minutes of nothingness at some point today.

Climb into your inbox and scan that list of 70 unread messages. Are you pretty sure some of those messages are more important—or even actually urgent—than others? Great, start with the most important-seeming one of those.

Open it, read it, and make a decision.

If you need more time to get the sender a proper answer or to make an informed decision, type that. I mean it! Literally, type: “Hi, [insert name]. I’ve got to do a little research before I can get back to you on this. Will be back with you [insert date and/or time].”

DONE.

Now, before you even think about opening another email (DON’T YOU EVEN THINK ABOUT IT), complete that necessary bit of research (or create an event on your calendar at which time you’ll absolutely do it) and get back to the person who’s now waiting on your reply.

You have every permission to answer your emails out of order; regardless of when someone sent you a message, it’s within your rights to prioritize other, received-later messages.

You get to be the master of your inbox. The conductor. The air traffic controller.

What you need to stop doing, however, is disempowering yourself by reading every single thing that comes through with no plan for when you’ll actually finish the task by answering each message. That’s a time and energy suck.

It’s either NOW or NOT NOW. And if it’s NOT NOW, make a date with yourself to do it, or decide you simply won’t do it, ever—then get it off your list.

Why September is the perfect month for winning your inner battles

I was pleased as punch to learn some weeks ago that September is Self-Improvement Month. While this doesn't mean our self-improvement should be reserved only for those four weeks out of the year, it does mean we can kickstart a few useful practices (or jumpstart any of our fallen-by-the-wayside good habits) during back-to-school season—which, for many of us, tends to function as 'January Lite'.

What is it that you want to bring to life before the end of the year?

Do you want to have written the first draft of your novel? (Obviously November is NaNoWriMo, but why wait until then when you can start now and have more than a single month to write it?)

Do you want to finally open the doors to your virtual creative residency for mothers?

Do you want to fashion a fitness program for the kids in your community?

Do you want to get the ball rolling on planning your Summer 2018 tour of the national parks?

Do you want to put together your first exhibition proposal to send to galleries?

Do you want to raise $50k in charitable donations to your nonprofit organization?

Think about your thing right now. Seriously—take a moment to hold it in your mind, to name it and give it a shape, to envision its actual becoming this year.

In preparation for all the good, juicy stuff you're going to create in the final quarter of 2017 (notice I didn't say 'hope to create'—that's right, you're an action-taker), I've got a plan to help you make the most of this month.

Each week, beginning in next Tuesday's post, I'll share with you a distinction that will up your doing game and render your feeling tendencies moot (at least as far as your particular project or ambition is concerned).

I'll also invite you to participate in a specific challenge around each week's distinction, so you can have some fun with these concepts in real-time.

Developing a bias for action (even when your default is analysis)

This past Saturday morning, I held my first Facebook Live broadcast. It was very much unscripted and totally exhilarating.

For weeks now, I've been toying with the idea of live video; the reality of it, however, scared the socks off me.

'I don't do video' would've been an easy refrain to keep myself from trying something new (and possibly failing or looking like a fool or being laughed at)—and, perhaps, if I weren't a coach, I wouldn't know to call bullshit on myself right there.

So, early last week, it became really clear to me that my most urgent personal and professional edge was located somewhere in the act of being recorded and witnessed live, without the option of editing.

As with double-dog dares, I can't turn down a good challenge, even (and maybe especially) if it's a challenge I give to myself. And when it comes to modeling boldness and decisive action for my clients, I really can't turn down a challenge.

So, I took a step forward. I announced a date and time for my live broadcast, and I tried not to seriously entertain the voice in my head that really wanted to know, OMG, HELEN, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!?!

Oh, and on top of that, I didn't prepare.

Nope. I decided this would be an exercise in showing up boldly by bringing just myself.

(You know how, when you're invited to someone's home for dinner and you ask, "What can I bring?" and they say, "Just bring yourself!"? I don't know about you, but, for me, that's the cat's meow, being told I need not bring anything but myself; it's a cozy feeling, and I try to revel in it for a moment by really appreciating my own enough-ness.)

So, you're wondering, how'd it go?

It was enough. I was enough.

(You are enough, too. You might be a chronic over-preparer or an I'm-not-ready-er or someone who has a really tough time being a beginner at anything. But you are enough. And it is enough for you to simply show up and learn by doing.) 

Here's to taking a first-step this week, toward a first of your own.