Jeremiah, the senior vice president of engineering at a mid-stage, mid-size software-as-a-service startup, was talking with Rose, his coach.
“We’ve been talking about my struggles to maintain momentum,” Jeremiah said. “You’ve been helping me identify three factors in sustaining my movement. We started with my easeful environment, the external surroundings that help me feel safe and calm. Then, we moved on to my replenishing resources, which are sort of meta-fuel for my being. Now, there’s one more component involved in consistently making progress?”
“There is,” Rose affirmed. “Your regulating rhythm.”
“Well, that’s easy,” Jeremiah said with a chuckle. “Samba!”
Rose laughed in return. “I remember samba music makes up part of your easeful environment,” she said. “And, dancing to samba may be a piece of your regulating rhythm. The samba rhythm may even be involved. Your regulating rhythm, however, isn’t how you move through a set of dance steps. It’s how you move through your day.”
1) How do you do what you do?
“Well, that’s easy, too,” Jeremiah said confidently. “I get up, eat breakfast, take my dog for a walk, go to work, eat lunch somewhere in the middle, eventually come home, play with my dog, take another walk, have dinner, and go to bed.”
“That’s what you do,” Rose explained, “and that’s one piece of your regulating rhythm. Another vital piece is how you do those things.”
“Like, whether I do them fast or slow?”
“Yes, in part. More important is how you decide to switch from one activity to another. For example, some people prefer a strict schedule. They always get up at 5:45. Then they take ten minutes for breakfast. That’s followed by thirty minutes for personal hygiene things. After that, they’re always out the door at 6:30 precisely.”
“So, when you said the samba rhythm may be part of my regulating rhythm, you meant I might use samba to regulate how I move through my day? Taking longer for things that come when the samba rhythm is stretching out, and moving faster at times the samba rhythm is popping along?”
“Exactly,” Rose confirmed.
“So, maybe a place to start is to examine how I know it’s time to move from one activity to another?”
“That’s a perfect way to get started.”
2) How do you know to switch focus?
“I know better than to say, ‘I just know,’ because you will just ask how I know. What am I seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, smelling? What is my heart, body, mind, spirit—my Council of Counsel—telling me? So, let me reflect a minute and find some answers.”
“You know me well,” Rose said with a smile. “Take all the time you need.”
Rose sat quietly and focused on her breathing while Jeremiah introspected. Then, about five minutes later, Rose noticed Jeremiah bringing his focus back into the room. So she brought her focus back to him.
“I follow the same general structure every day,” Jeremiah told Rose. “Even on days I don’t come into the office, such as the weekends or when I’m on vacation, I still have ‘work’ for the day. A goal to accomplish. Then, how I know to switch from one step to another varies. Is that ok?”
“There’s no right way,” Rose assured him. “Everybody’s rhythm is unique to them.”
“Cool. I always get up with my alarm. Even when I’ve tossed and turned all night. I’ve learned everything goes better that way. Sleeping in always makes the rest of the day a disaster.”
“Do you keep your alarm set at the same time every day?”
“Absolutely. And I hop right out.”
“Once I’m awake,” Jeremiah continued, “I don’t always go right to breakfast. My stomach makes a particular noise that tells me my body is ready for food. It’s not a specific time of day, or time since I last ate, or anything like that.”
“How do you know what to eat?”
“I listen to my body. I’ve spent a lot of time learning how to do that.”
“Then, for everything between breakfast and dinner, I tend to work in half-hour chunks,” he continued. “Those aren’t hard limits. Sometimes one may be only twenty minutes or as long as forty minutes. I don’t often go shorter or longer than that.”
“What determines the duration of a chunk?”
“I go by my gut. When I’m meeting with people, one-on-one or in a group, I can tell when the conversation is at a stopping point. When I’m with my dog, he makes it clear when he’s ready to stop. When I’m on my own, it’s almost as though I hear a voice saying, ‘Time to do something else.’”
“And then with dinner and your bedtime routine?”
“I’m either with other people or I’m alone. Either way, it’s my gut or that voice, just like the rest of the day.”
3) What happens when you don’t switch in time?
“Now, we’ll move on to the signals that tell you you’re missing your rhythm and the mitigations you can use when you can’t immediately get back into your rhythm.”
“I delved into those while reflecting on my rhythm,” Jeremiah replied. “Since we covered those for my easeful environment and replenishing resources, I figured they’d show up here too.”
“You’re a smart cookie,” Rose said with a grin. “What did you discover?”
“I have two signals. One is that I lose focus. I stop being able to keep my attention zeroed in. That means I’ve gone too long without a break. Then, my other signal is that I stop paying attention. This means I need to switch to something else.”
“Is the difference that you are paying attention but bouncing around to different things in the first case? While in the second case, your attention goes on break and you’re not focused on anything?”
“Those seem clear signals. What are your mitigations?”
“In both cases, my mitigation is to get up and walk around. That will give me time to know what to do next.”
“Perfect. We know from our previous discussions that you’re comfortable getting up and walking around even when you’re in an important meeting. So, that should work in any situation.”
“I believe so.”
4) Do your answers feel correct and complete?
“How confident are you that the regulating rhythm, signals, and mitigation you’ve described today are correct?”
“They’re absolutely spot on,” Jeremiah said without hesitation.
“Do you feel like anything is missing?”
“No, they each feel complete.”
“Anything else you’d like to say right now?”
“Besides that I’m glad to have this mysterious third factor finally demystified?” Jeremiah said with a laugh.
“Yes, besides that,” Rose said, laughing in turn.
“No, nothing is coming to mind. I need some time to process everything we’ve covered today. I’m sure I’ll have questions by our next session.”
“I look forward to hearing them,” Rose declared.
This is the last part of a series:
1. Transform your environment from exhausting to easeful in three steps
2. Focus on this one thing and feel energized all day long
3. Stuck finding what perfectly fuels you? Look at three things
4. Feeling tapped out? Transform to thriving with just three questions
5. Feeling run down? Three myths may be thwarting replenishing your resources