The Reflection Pool

Are You Caught in the Whirlwind?


Look or sound familiar? Sometimes I’m definitely Mickey and that whirlwind doesn’t want to let me go.

The whirlwind is a term coined by the authors of Four Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals. They describe it as the massive amount of energy that’s necessary just to keep your job going on a day-to-day basis. We all know the feeling – the emails, the phone calls, the meetings, the to-do lists. It’s absolutely necessary but it’s also is the enemy of getting something new or innovative done. (p. 6)

The first step to getting out the whirlwind is to notice it. It reminds me of how lots of people like to talk about how busy they are and how exhausting their life is (see Dean Shareski‘s excellent posts on this topic). I get it, we all seem to have lots to do. But once we notice, maybe it’s possible to find some time to focus on what’s important. Maybe you can step away from the whirlwind for 30 minutes and create the time.

Perhaps as you read this you are laughing hollowly. “No way,” you’re thinking. “She is nuts – I don’t have a minute extra”. If that’s you, it might be time to read Essentialism.

I find it as hard as the next person to focus on what’s truly important and not just urgent. And yet, if I did it first thing when I get up, or blocked my calendar for 60 minutes every week, or went away for an overnight by myself to focus, or turned the TV off before the next show in the bingeworthy series came on…it could be different.

Photo by Jenna Hamra from Pexels

Yes, it could be different.

3 thoughts on “Are You Caught in the Whirlwind?

  1. Sue, I love how you included Dean’s posts in here. I read the first one on the word “busy” a long time ago, and I realized how often I used the word and thought about being “busy.” The post changed my perspective. I try to use the word less now (I’m working on not using it at all, but I’m not perfect at this YET), but I also try how to feel less busy. I can’t help but think about my Communucation of Learning writing experience. Usually writing them makes me feel overwhelmed. This time, I gave myself four days. Yes, it was four full days (two weekends), but I still worked breaks into both (including brunch with friends), stayed focused on my goal, and wrote. As others were speaking about the stress of reports, I must admit, I didn’t feel the stress. Is it because this whirlwind writing was confined to four days, and the rest of my time could be devoted to other things? Could it also be how I reframed these Communications of Learning? Instead of seeing them as a burden, I looked at them as a way to tell the story of each child. It became kind of an empowering writing experience, and thinking about each child in this way, almost made me feel as though I learned a little more about each child in the process. From a school perspective, can we feel less caught up in this whirlwind, if we find ways to set goals, still keep kids at the forefront of the learning, and somehow try to turn some of these little tasks into ways to think and learn more about our students? I wonder …


  2. Denise – thanks for taking the time to reply. I always find it interesting how many people respond to the idea of sustained alone time in a positive way. We introverts have become skilled at hiding in plain sight! Knitting, sewing, crafting, woodworking, in short, making, is an amazing way to find flow and space from the whirlwind. Reminds me of another post I wrote in last year around Flow.

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