I failed.

Disclaimer: This story takes place back in February 2021, but the moral of the story is still valid today.

A couple of months back I had to deliver a project for Toast Masters called “Active Listening”. And when I saw the title of the project I said to myself “Well, hey, how do you apply active listening to a speech?”

Right from the start, I must admit that I failed at active listening.

I started going to ToastMasters as a kind of hobby, a safe place where I can practice my all-time-favourite public speaking. But then came the opportunity to participate in the Area contest (public speaking contest of the area your club is part of) and I had to rush and deliver 4 speeches for around a month. This didn’t feel like a hobby to me anymore.

The first thing I failed at was actively listening to myself. It was as if completing projects for my masters, going through agile training and certification, working and taking time for myself wasn’t enough.

When there is no travelling and not so much going out, no going to the office and being among colleagues, or simply since life went digital I feel that the things I do are never enough.

Yes, I have this sensation that I should be constantly doing something. Even when I’m “resting” I should check my socials, check my email, check Teams, circle around YouTube, whatnot.

In the meantime, my body was screaming “NOOOOOOOO” and I wasn’t listening. My eyes were saying “Come on, Ellie, take us off this screen, take us to the mountains to gaze at nature” And I responded “What? You want to see another episode of Firefly lane or Emily in Paris? You’ve got it!”

The worst part is that eventually, the excitement of having so much to do turns into a “Let’s get this over with”.

This gets me to the second thing I failed at — completing my second project from Level 2 Motivation strategies. The one about Active listening. It turned out you should be a Topicsmaster and comment on other people topics rather than deliver a speech…

The point is I was rushing through tens of different projects, very busy, very satisfied and not very successful at it.

Remember when multitasking was THE KING of skills? I don’t believe in that anymore. It is scientifically proven that it actually lowers productivity by around 40%, but it’s not only productivity I’m talking about here it’s also getting confused, overstressed, bad at prioritizing BECAUSE EVERYTHING has the highest priority.

Fast forward to May 2021, what I wanted to do and partially did:

  • take a break from public speaking
  • take my eyes to the mountains (also a nice way to stay fit)
  • give my hands free-of-phone time
  • apply active listening in real life (by listening to myself)

These are not one-time efforts, but you already know that. It somehow turned into our duty to be online, to stay connected. We feel the need to be present in the virtual space, otherwise, we experience FOMO (or at least I do).

But actively listening to yourself or in other words giving your brain, your eyes and your hands some free time (off the laptop) is possible. Think of it as building a new habit. A disconnected one.

I’m still learning, but it pays off.

Now let me ask you something:

On the road to building appealing visual content. A wanna-be graphic designer that falls for beautiful presentations. An energetic person the rest of the time.