Lessons From Radical Triage

An illness let me see my schedule and priorities with fresh eyes.

An illness let me see my schedule and priorities with fresh eyes.

In the midst of my normal end-of-the-year crunch, I found myself with the flu. Nothing as dramatic as the swine flu. Just the regular, everyday, common flu.

When I realized I was getting sick, I did everything I could to prepare. I made a grocery run to make sure I had enough juice, soup, fruit, and easy to fix meals to get through a few days of not feeling well. I fortified the house in anticipation of shifting priorities, and stocked up on things that could make my life easier for a few days.

A few days. Those turned out to be famous last words because my flu is still with me more than a week later. In spite of my best management skills, my best efforts to work with the healing process, I found myself ticking off days of greatly reduce productivity beyond my expectations.

Reduced Expectations

I started by reducing my expectations for those first few days. I didn’t push myself, but allowed myself to nap and rest each time I felt tired. I triaged my unfinished holiday presents, and started calling the family members at the end of the list to apologize in advance for not being able to complete their presents before the new year. Of course, they took this news well. I was proud of myself for adjusting to the new situation and shifting my own expectations accordingly.

But as the flu lingered, I found myself having to repeat this process a couple more time.  I realized I had just started operating under a radical triage. I postponed what I could postpone, but I also found myself cancelling things. I cleared my social and professional calendars. I canceled projects I had planned to complete. Blog posts were eliminated as well. In fact, I soon realized I was living under a skeleton of my normal workload and expectations.

Radical Triage

The weirdest thing happened next. I realized I was okay with this reduced workload. I was okay with postponing some things and canceling others. That realization led me to take a fresh look at what I’ve assumed as routine and normal tasks. What does it mean that I’m completely comfortable letting go of these things? Were they just perfunctory items in my schedule, items without any connection to my passions? Or was this just my complete acceptance of my situation and my adjustment to it?

These turned out to be great questions. Here I was, adjusting my expectations of myself in a radical way from what I had scheduled, and I was totally at peace. What was the lesson I could learn from this radical triage?

New Vision

I’m still examining this situation, and I don’t have the final answers. But I do have some new guidelines I’ve created for myself. I have fresher eyes now to look at my routines and habits, and I’m using them to give everything on my schedule the once over. I’m no longer assuming that standing events and appointments are essential. In fact, a new acid test I’m implementing is this: What if I cancel this? How do I feel about that? Would I really miss it?

In fact, I suspect that much of my day is actually filled with habits instead of the things I really feel are important. Things connected to my future vision and plans. Things connected to my passions. I really want my life, every day of it, every hour of it, to be inching me closer to being the person I want to be. To living out my dreams and visions for the future. Anything less is, well, less.

I’m grateful that my life has given me the opportunity to see myself through a new lens. What I’ve seen is that what I thought was essential was really just a nice to have. Which means that I have plenty of time and energy freed up to fulfill my new dreams and passions. What an exciting way to start a new year.

So what about you? Are you filling out your 2010 calendar with events that are connected to your own passions or are you filling your days with routine events tied to you only by habit? I challenge you to apply a radical triage to your own calendar and see what you learn about yourself.

Related posts:

About author:

Charlene is the information strategist behind Crow Information Design.

2 Responses to “Lessons From Radical Triage”

  1. Kate Mohler says:

    Charlene, I loved this post! It’s so well-written and right on the money. I too fall into the habit of accumulating dates/meetings/responsibilities that are truly non-essential. One of my goals for 2011 is to focus on what’s really important. I’m glad there’s somebody else (like you!) out there thinking the same positive (and radical?) thoughts. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy. Comments from first time participants are moderated.

CommentLuv badge

Have a blog? Allow CommentLuv to add your last blog post to your comment.

Sorry, you can't to browse this website.

Because you are using an outdated version of MS Internet Explorer. For a better experience using websites, please upgrade to a modern web browser.

Mozilla Firefox Microsoft Internet Explorer Apple Safari Google Chrome