Some days can feel like a blur. Work, emails, appointments, kid activities, meal prep, exercise – the list goes on and the clock ticks as I continue to push through one item after another. These are the days when I can easily slip into “robot mode.”
When robot mode gets turned on then my day revolves around production. I become very efficient and very determined. I find myself driven by the voice in my head that thrives on “Look how much you are getting DONE!” A mechanical human with eyes focused on the next thing & a heart guarded to keep emotion at bay – no time for that!!
And robot mode feels very stiff. I am unable to flex with life’s curveballs. The clock & the to-do list are constantly on my mind & when something unplanned gets introduced, I get resentful & cranky. “How dare you mess with my timeline!” I scream inside.
It has taken years of falling into this pattern to realize that a robotic life is not the life for me. It may be efficient, productive and keep the machine of my family & work running, but it doesn’t account for joy, creativity & the wholehearted love that I need & crave.
I know that in order to live a fulfilling life I need to take my time on things and be open to embrace moments of spontaneity. I long to enjoy beauty and feel the wonder & awe in everything that surroundings me. I want to be engaged and ready to connect with the people in front of me. And I am happiest when I sing and laugh each day.
But the stiff armor is always waiting for opportunities to trap me into it’s more, more, more mentality, so I work to stay watchful and be proactive. Here are a few simple strategies that keep me from getting stuck in robot mode or pull me out when I am head down & my to-do list is running on overdrive.
Each day I write down the three things that I really want to accomplish for the day. These are the items that feel the most essential to complete given all of the moving pieces of the day. Keeping a smaller daily list of tasks allows for a sense of completion and the freedom to invite spontaneity.
When I catch myself trying to add more items to my daily list, then I stop, turn the page & instead write them on a separate list that captures ideas for the whole week. This practice eases the urgency. I haven’t forgotten about these ideas/projects, but can give myself a break about getting to them right now.
When my head is spinning & I can’t stop watching the clock, I use a simple trick that I learned years ago on a yoga retreat. I shift my focus to something far off, like the sunset or the top of a tree and allow my gaze to blur – zoom out. After a few minutes, I turn my eyes toward something close by & focus on one tiny aspect of that thing – zoom in. This shift from grand to tiny is a simple practice that brings me back to the present & keeps the big picture in mind.
Each day I make time for a few moments outside. I might spend it walking my dog, eating lunch in the sunshine, or stepping out to watch the trees in the breeze. The amount of time varies, but this time in nature offers the expansion that keeps my focus from becoming narrow & rigid.
If I have stopped making eye contact with the people around me, then I know that I am in robot mode. I stop & look into eyes of the person right in front of me and there is an immediate shift that breaks down my armor. I am no longer running on auto-pilot, I am open to whatever emotion is present in front of me.
I find that I switch right out of robot mode when I turn on some good music. I can’t help but engage with the words & feel a lightness in my body when songs that I love are playing. I love to listen & sing along while I cook & find that music makes me feel flexible & light- no robot allowed unless I choose it as a dance move!
I keep a small dated journal by my bed & each night I write 3-5 simple things that bring a sense of gratitude, contentment, or joy. This simple ritual doesn’t take long and has become a peaceful way to re-center & take stock at the end of the day.
On the days when robot mode is in full gear, it requires a little searching to find gratitude. But those are the days when I remind myself of immediate things like my warm bed or the ability to breathe in and out. This practice is simple, consistent & has become a habit that allows me to tune in to my heart each day.
It is easy to get stuck going through the motions, but my life is so much more enjoyable when I am engaged, flexible, open & present to the people & things around me. I know I wasn’t meant to be a robot.