For a full discussion on this topic, you can listen to the podcast episode here. I cover many issues of time management, multi-tasking and productivity in this episode and they are not all encompassed here.
Imay be biased given my career as a professional ballroom dancer, but I truly believe that dancing holds in it the secrets of the Universe. It is a visual demonstration of every spiritual and energy principle that is discussed in personal development circles and I believe that it can be used as a powerful experiential tool to convey these more abstract ideas in a concrete manner.
Take for example an obvious area, like leading and following.
Learning to be a good leader on the dance floor gave me insight into leadership principles that are discussed at high levels of business training — I remember talking to one of my clients a few years back who had done some high powered consulting work and her most recent team leadership training was giving her insights into things that we had been discussing in our dance lessons for a while.
Regardless if you have set foot on a studio floor or not, though, I believe that you can dance your way through life with these principles.
What do I mean about dancing your way through life? The music will always be playing, urging you to make choices and move. The purpose of dancing is ultimately a co-creative one, it is supposed to be fun, free and beneficial to both parties.
With this principle as an anchor, I believe that you can learn to navigate life’s choreography — the things you have to do, the responsibilities you have to bear, the people you have to manage — by mastering your sense of timing, your knowledge of dynamics and your ability to be present.
Timing in dancing is essential because it allows us to structure our movement at a high level. Everything that requires a high level of performance must respect a strong level of structure. The devil is in the details, and your ability to create and work with structure in your life is essential for choreographing a beautiful routine.
The Dance of Life exists in our ability to effectively manage our decisions in relation to the time that we have. In dancing, we often ask ourselves the duration of what we have to work with.
How many beats do I have? This will determine my actions.
In the choreography of life — being effective leaders and multi-taskers, we must consider similar questions alongside key principles. One of them is that of accelerating and diminishing returns — meaning, there is a warm-up period to a task as well as a burn-out period, creating an optimal working zone in the middle.
If you do not have enough time to warm-up to a task, don’t bother starting it because you will end up not finishing, poorly finishing or frustrating yourself.
Another element of managing your time is, really, managing your energy.
To be productive is to segment your time according to your attention and energy. There are many ways to use your time and if you make use of them you will always have something to do and not waste it idly. I outline a few in my podcast episode, but they are: creating, organizing, executing, learning and rejuvenating.
Knowing where your energy is at is a key component to mastering the timing of your routine. You may not feel like creating anything, but you in a perfect position to execute your to-do list or organize.
A final component of timing is that we live in a reality where the order in which you do something determines the result. This is an inescapable part of reality but it is one that allows you to understand timing both for the little things as well as the big ones.
The big decisions of your life should always consider timing because it does make a difference. I remember seeing a pear in a vodka bottle once and wondered at the interesting creation — how it had taken advantage of timing to create something seemingly impossible. The same goes for the big decisions of your life — while there are plenty of opportunities, it is also important to utilize the ones you do get.
The daily transactions and mini-battles of life are also important in terms of timing and those rely on your tactical skills. When I cook and meal prep, I always like to plan in a way that I can waste as little time as possible by taking advantage of what I call “stacking” tasks. This when you can put the rice cooker on and while it’s doing that boil some pasta and dice some vegetables.
In dancing we have to coordinate a lot of moving parts in our bodies, let alone with another person. Our understanding of organizing these parts to a sequence as well as simultaneously by “stacking” them creates a multi-dimensional approach to time that is very dynamic and fluid.
We begin to see relationships between things and we are not multi-tasking poorly by bouncing around from one thing to another without getting anything done.
In both physics and dancing, dynamics refers to the relationship of things to one another over time. We live in a relational Universe, meaning nothing moves independently of itself but in relation to everything else. When we look at the dynamics at play in your life’s choreography, they come in the form of internal or external kinds.
In competitive ballroom dancing we must be skilled individually as well as as a team. On an individual basis one is constantly working on the dynamics within their own body — the twisting of body parts in opposition to others, stretching, pulling and turning, pointing and all of those things that hurt but are so worth it in the end.
Life is no different — a dynamic life, relationship, business, marriage, family — they all employ stretching and twisting to your max. They all employ opposing forces that must be reconciled beautifully to the music. In dancing we reconcile physical forces (and some non-physical ones, too), and in life it is about balancing the dynamics of opposing viewpoints, attitudes and behaviors or people in your world.
A skilled leader also knows how to floorcraft — that is, navigate the floor around obstacles and others so that the judges and audience may see them effectively. In life there are many obstacles that will impede your perfectly choreographed routine, and this is why floorcrafting dynamically through the external situations is mastered by practicing adaptability, patience and courage.
On the floor of your life there are the people you want to dance for (the audience) and who you need to dance for (your boss, your responsibilities, etc.). There will always be obstacles that impede your routine, the key is to navigate around them with grace.
Mental presence is the hallmark of any good leader and it is the key to not only choreographing your life’s dance but also enjoying it as well.
From my experiences in a competitive sport I can share two points that affect your mental presence and attention to what’s in front of you.
Your experience in the given area. If you are new, you are going to consume a lot more energy and time, potentially be more distracted and generally be more mentally consumed with under-performing than a veteran. As you grow in skill (If you are familiar with the 4 levels of learning — unconsciously incompetent, consciously incompetent, etc.) to reach unconscious competence (mastery), your ability to reconcile two opposite things — doing and being — into one state of mind is honed to perfection, giving you a winning presence in anything you do.
Your ability to focus. I call this the “warm-up reduction” time because it is each person’s ability to bring their attention to the matter. The first point is not something you can control because it is time-based. You just have to put in the work and gain the experience in anything you do. This point, however, is something you can control and it is your attention. The longer your attention takes to get to where you are, the less you can utilize your time effectively.
Life’s drum will keep on playing and, regardless, we will have to dance to it. How we dance, who we dance with and what we can create during the time the music is playing for us is all a matter of our ability to choreograph — master your time, attention and energy through these principles and dance your way through life gracefully and with joy because that’s why the music is playing in the first place.