Each year to commemorate the lives of those lost on 9-11, New York City shines two bright beams of light into the skyline to represent the World Trade Centers. Maybe you’ve seen it—or you can see it this weekend. It’s a beautiful and meaningful tribute to those who lost their lives on that tragic day.
But, if you look closely into those lights, you’ll see something else happening. A chaos of whirling dots diving and wheeling around in the light. These dots are actually bats, insects, migratory birds and birds of prey drawn to the beams of light. The problem is they can’t escape. They become disoriented and exhausted flying around seeking a way out of the giant beams of light. According to researchers, 160,000 birds ranging from songbirds to nighthawks are endangered each year during this event. So what could be done?
During the light tribute, scientists and volunteers now gather to count the birds. When the number reaches 1,000, they turn off the lights for 20 minutes to give the birds and other critters time to disperse.
I love that people have worked out a compromise to honor the victims of 9-11 while not hurting other species in the process. We’re all interconnected after all.
In some ways, I can’t help relating to these hapless creatures who are steered off course thanks to a pair of bright shiny lights. My bright shiny lights includes social media and news feeds, podcasts, a pile of dog-eared business and writing books, and thousands of emails delivered each day from my favorite thought leaders, influencers, business coaches and others. Can you relate?
All of these things can be time sucks and instead of helping us move toward our goals, the noise and distraction actually keeps us stuck, spinning in place—sort of like the twin lights the birds were getting trapped in.
And getting stuck is both stressful and unhealthy. Fortunately we don’t have to wait for someone else to pull the plug when it comes to preserving our wellbeing and creativity.
Here are few ways to step out of the noise and lights to reset and get grounded; tap back into your personal creativity; and avoid burnout.
Take a social media sabbatical. Not long ago, I chose to do a 14-day break from all of my social media feeds. I only checked into the group I facilitate once a day and skipped the main feed. It was a good break that helped me re-assess and redefine my online boundaries moving forward. I found more free time, got my work done faster, procrastinated less, and the time away helped boost my creativity.
Turn off Notifications. Nothing detracts me from my work like a notification popping in from social media or from a news outlet. I’ve started turning these notifications off, and I turned off the notifications sent to my email too. I now feel much less tempted to jump in and get lost down the news and social media rabbit holes.
Unsubscribe from a few lists. Do you tend to subscribe to lots of people’s lists? An email box bursting with unread messages can create plenty of stress. The problem with getting trapped in too many other people’s stories and agendas is it can make it harder to trust yourself and your own instincts. What works for them, may not exactly align with what will work for you which can lead to analysis paralysis. If you need professional guidance, join a business group or hire a coach or business advisor you respect and trust; take a class; or choose to pare down your list to just a handful of your favorite thought leaders to avoid getting overwhelmed.
Bless the rest and release them so they can make more of an impact with those they really want to connect with.
Streamline news consumption. Too much doom-and-gloom scrolling can derail your day, trigger anxiety and depression and lead you to believe the world is an unfriendly, terrible place. To stay informed, I skim through the top headlines two or three times a day. I read or listen to the stories that I’m most interested in and then turn it off. I also tend to choose moderate media outlets that aren’t sensational or working overtime to corner the market on conspiracy theories, fear-mongering or clearly appealing to a biased audience.
Clear away clutter. I’ve learned that when I’m surrounded by physical clutter like piles of papers, books or things I’m not sure what to do with, I can’t think clearly or come up with exciting, fresh ideas–the whole cluttered space, cluttered mind thing. Clearing off my desk, filing paperwork and getting rid of trash can do amazing things for my frame of mind. BTW, Joanie Nicholas, All Things Organized, is a wonderful and supportive professional resource if you’d like to learn how to manage all of that clutter! I took her closet challenge last spring and managed to drag out years of stuff I no longer needed or wanted!
Rest, play and reflect. As an entrepreneur, a mom, and a writer, it sometimes difficult for me to pull myself away from my to-do list and take the time to enjoy activities that give me a personal sense of meaning, purpose and satisfaction. I’ve learned the hard way that when I don’t, my creativity, energy and health suffers.
Each week, I look for ways to interact with the world in a meaningful way like through artist dates (visiting a venue I haven’t been before or one that inspires me), handwritten notes to long-distance friends, and meeting up for coffee, lunch or a walk with nearby friends.
I’m reading books for pleasure and taking nature walks among the trees with my dog.
But most of all when I feel my wings getting weary and the noise overwhelming, I’m starting to give myself permission to take a break from it all. I hope you will too.
To read more about the Twin Towers Light Memorial, visit the 9/11 Memorial & Museum.
What do you do to clear your head and tap your creativity?