A commitment to doing less

As I am sitting here in our living room with my cup of tea, while the sun is peaking out from behind the clouds, I struggle to begin. Where to begin? There has been so much going on in October and November. This is when writing nearly becomes therapeutic for me. A non-prescription remedy if you will. So I take a deep breath and start taking a stroll through what’s been going on in my life:

  • Vacation: I enjoyed a wonderfully relaxed week on Sylt in October with my Mum and my Dad’s wife. Sounds unusual, I know – and it worked really well for us. The beaches and dunes, yummy food, spa treatments, arts and crafts, heart-to-heart conversations – it was priceless.
  • Bread: I taught three colleagues at hppyppl how to make their own sourdough bread in a one-week course
  • Mentoring: I supported a friend who is setting up her own business with advice in terms of marketing, showed her how to create personas, how to build a marketing funnel and how to use customer needs as a springboard for sales
  • Song: I sang on stage at a local choir day with the village choir – that was great fun although I cannot go to the rehearsals as often as I should due to business travel.
  • Nature: I went for a hike all alone one Sunday, something I had rarely done before (if ever? – not sure) and relished the autumn colours, landscape and solitude. On another Sunday, Klaus and I walked together by the baltic sea.
  • Facilitation: I planned and facilitated workshops with teams onsite in Brunswick, Frankfurt, Geneva, Berlin and many times online. One of the challenges and at the same time a source of excitement and joy in my work is variety. I get to immerse into completely different contexts and dynamics: From the leadership team of an international tech scale-up to hands-on production and warehouse workers. From a bubbly marketing team in the healthcare sector to a seasoned leadership crew in banking/finance to a team that provides personnel services. There is no one-size fits all in how I work, although some needs and patterns are universal.
  • Co-leading a start-up: We had our hppyppl team day at the end of October with a retro of our work this year, setting the strategic direction for next year and creating content (images, videos) that we can use for our marketing. Most importantly, we had time together. Getting to know each other more deeply. This is so important because we are a fully remote company.
  • Illness: I suffered from a recurrence from my gut condition and needed to take antibiotics. One evening while on business travel I was even wondering whether I should call an ambulance because I was in so much pain that I could not walk nor sit anymore. Luckily someone organized the tablets I needed and the situation was under control again.
  • Family: Using Bingen as a hub for my business travel, I got to spend quality time with my Grandpa and my Mum. They will both have round birthdays towards the end of December and the planning for Grandpa’s 100th is well underway.
  • Experiment: With my colleague Melli, I went on the experiment of a co-working and co-living week in Bingen which we enjoyed a lot.
  • Guitar: I learned a couple of new songs on the guitar (sometimes I wish I played the flute instead – that would be easier to travel with.) I recently bought a second, smaller guitar that lives in Bingen so I can practice there more easily.
  • Building site: Klaus and I are encountering many ups and downs with our building site (remember, the workshop barn…): I had forgotten how many setbacks and surprises it brings if you have building works in an old house. Rarely does anything go to plan, our timeline is down the drain, costs we did not foreseee popped up – the lot.
  • Meditation: Nearly every day I took time for 10-40 minutes of mindfulness practice which gave me calmness and helped me remain mentally balanced and resilient. Meditiation is a welcome addition to my regular yoga practice, it adds another layer.
  • Coaching: I had a 1:1 coaching here at our house with a woman who is about to start a new chapter in her life work-wise and unsure of the route she wants to take. Together, we were able to find out what was holding her back and she started making peace with her fears.
  • New business: We won a new co-company for hppyppl that will work with us longer term, yay! In addition to that, there a re new leads in the pipeline and the prospect for next year is positive.
  • Learning: I gifted myself with a day of inspiration, exchange and learning at the global NDB facilitation festival yesterday.

What shall I say – that’s a lot for 7 weeks. Too much? Probably, at least if you ask my gut. 😅
All in all I can say that I am leading a life that feels fulfilling for me. I like myself and I know that I am loved and appreciated for who I am by the people around me. I am grateful to have a profession that plays to my natural strengths and it is so “me” that it gives me more energy than it takes on most days. I do have ways to cope with stress and with the sheer volume of work. I know how to look after myself, how to be still and how to recharge. Otherwise I would not nearly be able to get so much done. I am a lot kinder to myself than I was three or four years ago. And yet it seems like the search for “the right balance”, the right dose of activity vs. downtime is still an ongoing journey. “What are you willing to give up?” a colleague asked me yesterday. That is such a hard question. Most of the things I do are dear to me.

On the professional side, the answer lies in giving away work that does not necessarily have to be done by me.

The team at hppyppl has grown and will continue to get bigger so I can rely on helping hands and minds. My aim is to have a 20 hour work week on average. My struggle is that while I am working at home for hppyppl, I find it difficult to stop myself at say 14:00 and call it a day. I do try to manage my calender proactively and leave “breathing room” for unforeseen things, for deep work or downtime and learning. It’s just that when I hit a time that is free in my calendar, I tend to continue to work instead of going for a walk or reading a book or playing the guitar. Something seems to glue me to my desk. Something that is strong. I suspect it has to do with dopamine, the kick I get from completing a task, finding a solution, making progress. And why do I need this kick? Is it a purpely chemical thing, an addiction or is it that a part of me still fears, deep inside, that I am not good enough, that I have to prove my worth by working extra hard? Perhaps.

As I mature as a facilitator, I notice that I am getting less hung up on methods and agendas and make more room for listening, processing, sensing. A friendly invitation or setting an intention is more helpful than “steering” or “pushing”. This mindset feels liberating and opens new opportunities.

The quesion is: Can I apply this same attitude to my whole life? Doing less and being more. Letting go to let come.

That would mean saying to myself – not only in workshops and on my yoga mat but also in general: “Breathe and relax into yourself, Sonja – it’s all good.” This will be my most important project for the next weeks as the year is nearing its end. I will give myself a physical anchor that reminds me to take it easy – a bracelet that I received as a gift on Sylt. This shall be my reminder to do less and be more.

Ok, so the commitment is made. I will let you know how it went.

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