Being a turtle and why it’s bad for business

Jan 22, 2015 by

turtleToday was revolutionary.

I walked out of the house carrying only  my planner and a cup of tea.

Why’s that such a big deal?

I’ve been a turtle for a long time—carrying all the comforts of home & then some with me wherever I go.

My turtling habits started early.

As a kid, I used to heap all of my textbooks into my backpack. (Yes, all of them.)

I tipped over more than once while sitting due to the sheer weight of my backpack. It was embarrassing.

Why did I insist on packing it all along with me?

I was worried about being late to class.

Maybe I thought I couldn’t afford a trip to my locker to swap out books.

As an introvert, I probably didn’t want to be caught without something to do while waiting for class to begin.

More than anything, I wanted to be prepared. And I believed that if I carted everything around with me, I wouldn’t be caught unawares.

And here’s the thing. I still do this crazy stuff.

I’m sure more than one client has watched me battle to open the office door,

keys dangling precariously from an extended pinky finger,

cup of coffee cradled in one arm,

planner tucked under the other,

with a backpack and a purse slung over a single, woeful, tired shoulder.

I’m like a turtle. I believe I must take all the essentials of home with me.

What I finally realized…

backpack figurineExcept I realized that most of the essentials… aren’t. essentials.

I realized that many of the objects I carted around with me…

the worn and yet somehow barely-read book on this or that therapy

–the laptop

the notes that need editing

–even the tea I prepare

…most of these things are never used. They are empty promises I make to myself, imagining I can fit more productivity into a day that already has plenty planned for it.

It’s like I don’t trust there to be provisions and things to do wherever it is that I’m going.

Like every spare minute should be spent working on some scrap of… well, work.

As a small business owner, I can tell you that this myth is very damaging.

Down time is very important.

Picking and choosing what you work on each day is important.

I finally realized that I was carrying around my to-do list with me.

These objects—these unread books, half-composed blog posts, the laptop—were all promises of work I would do with the 10-15 minute scraps I would find in the middle of my workday.

And yet, when the day ended, as I shrug back into my “shell” to cart everything home with me, I realize—I didn’t use 80% of the things I brought with me.

Do you do this, too?

How to quit being a turtle

rucksack signWhile being a turtle has its advantages, it can also be a terrible waste of energy.

Here’s what you can do to quit carrying your shell around with you:

Before you load yourself up with this or that thing, really reckon with your schedule for the day.

Ask yourself, “Will I really get to that today?”

Don’t make empty promises.

Have a clear sense of priority—what needs to happen today? If everything on your to-do list is urgent, none of it is. Set priorities.

Climb out from under your to-do list.

Realize that there’s more to life than how productive you are.

Play around with what it might be like to show up early somewhere and have a few spare minutes to yourself. Instead of checking your phone or trying to find something to do, people watch. Meditate. Breathe. Look at the sky. Whatever!

Remember: idle moments are not wasted moments.

So check before you leave home for the day:  are you being a turtle?

Is there anything you’ve packed on that you can reasonably leave behind?

Set your priorities for the day and then let the rest go.

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  1. Hello…….this really resonates with me. In fact, I almost didn’t take the time to read this because I thought, “If I start reading this person’s work, I will take it on as I have several other things that are not getting the attention they need and I beat myself up for.” However, I’m glad I also thought, “What the hell…..take a look!”

    I have signed up for an online course for doing couples therapy, an online speaking course of which I never participate in the Facebook page for, etc, etc, etc. I am an information junkie. That being said, I can honestly say I believe I will use the strategies I am learning from the online course, and ‘eventually’, will get to the speaking thing because I truly want to become comfortable as a public speaker.

    I was so happy to read the part about social networking. I read all of these glorious things other therapists are writing and beat myself up because I wonder how they find the time to write these amazing things and I can hardly get through my e-mail. I am just now entering my fifth year of private practice and can say my practice is fairly full. Yet, I’m pressuring myself to do MORE. Something ELSE. I have worked very hard on building my practice. I love seeing clients and spend most of my professional time doing so. But, that little voice will say, “Kathy, what about starting a group? Writing a book? Doing that awesome workshop you just received the email about?” Ahhhhhh!!!!!!!!! It can be crazy making. So glad to know someone else in my field has had this struggle. After reading this, I have decided I will spend 15 min a day on the online course stuff and 15 min a day on the public speaking stuff. If I am not blogging, posting, or engaging as much as everyone else, so be it! Thank you!

  2. I forgot to mention the zillions of webinars I’m behind on watching because I sign up for them all the time and don’t get to them. Ahhhh!

    • Ann

      Thanks so much for writing, Kathy– I’m so glad this post resonated with you. I think a lot of us struggle with knowing what to focus on– and the influx of all this amazing free (& for-a-fee) information keeps us feeling like we need to do more and more and more. Sometimes getting just one really good idea and then stepping away from the firehose of information coming off the internet can be helpful. I hope you’ll stop by again to comment again soon!

  3. Oh Ann! You had me at “keys dangling precariously from an extended pinky finger” – although I have often described this as not being a turtle (which I love), but being a pack mule.

    I too have a work bag that has everything I need (!), and just two days ago I took time to clean it out. Put the unread therapy book back on the shelf (I will come back to it), sorted and filed or tossed things that at first glance I thought were important, interesting or needed my attention. Realizing that since I HADN’T taken the time to read them, it was okay to let them go.

    I felt a surge of relief as I lifted a much lighter bag.

    Your comments about being realistic as to what we can fill in our scraps of time with during our workday, are right on. Be honest about priorities. The expectations I set for myself, at times, are ridiculous. Think about it, if I have a short break between clients, what will serve me better: getting up and moving, maybe doing stretches in my office or talking a walk around the floor of my building or even going outside? Or frantically responding to a few emails, or scanning a document that needs to be faxed. Realistically speaking – yes, there are times when it is important to get that fax off before the end of the business day but it doesn’t have to be what I always do – the “default setting”.

    I will be better prepared for my next client if I take the 10-15 minutes for self care, getting up and moving (I happen to deal with some physical issues myself so this is imperative), and then coming back to focus. Something I have done on occasion is between clients, sit on the couch where they sit and experience my office from that viewpoint. It’s a new perspective and leads me to appreciate my office setting/environment differently.

    Thank you for your post! And by the way, I’m an ex-Houstonian living in Denver now, and one of my dearest friends lives in Austin – one of my favorite places!

    • Ann

      Hi, Michelle! Good for you for clearing out your work bag! I have to do that from time to time, too. I’m with you on using those scraps of time in between session for self-care. It can be tempting to get a bit of work done, and sometimes that fits in great to the schedule– but I find for certain kinds of work, like reading a book or working on a larger project, 10-15 minutes gives me just enough time to begin to sink into something before I suddenly have to extricate myself and get ready for my next clinical hour. A brief meditation sit, snack, or stretch break seems to be a better use of the time almost always for me!

      Funny you should mention sitting on the client’s couch. I do that from time to time, to get myself out of the work chair both literally and figuratively. It does offer a different perspective… and if I’m totally honest, the length of the couch permits me to stretch out a bit and rest, too! I wonder if other therapists do this, too? So glad you took the time to comment on this post– I hope you’ll drop by again soon to share your thoughts! Good luck keeping that work bag light and manageable!

  4. S. O. Rooney, MA, LPCi

    I am just turning 60 years old and am in the process of just opening my counseling practice. But I remember being a sweet young thing in high school with a book bag nearly as large as I was. I made it out of thick dark blue and cream brocade upholstery fabric, with two huge side-by-side compartments and a big strap that ran over my shoulder. I had a lot of books. And I had to carry all of them with me, of course. So over the course of a good number of years I lugged everything I owned around on one shoulder. As you might imagine, my poor hard-working shoulder dropped ever so slightly lower as time passed. Eventually, I developed mild scoliosis, just so I could haul everything I owned around with me. My motto? “Don’t leave home without it!” Thank you for the refreshing reminder that my life isn’t going to fall apart because I actually “needed” something that I didn’t haul with me that day.

  5. I just discovered your blog through David Bueno Martin’s link. You have such a gift with writing. This post especially hit home… battling the “must be productive” impulse just gets my mind racing. Love this thought: “Remember: idle moments are not wasted moments.” Thanks!

    • Ann

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Jennifer! The “must be productive” impulse drives so many of us, doesn’t it? I’m glad you found the post helpful– I feel like I need frequent reminders to help me focus on the things that truly matter. Hope you drop by to comment again soon.