It is the end of the first week of 2019. As I write this I am sitting in a local Starbucks watching a young lady pace back and forth as she waits for her coffee. The line for the drive-thru was quite extensive. Everywhere people are in a hurry to get what they need and where they are going. I must confess to falling victim to this myself from time to time. The question is when do we stop? You need to get your coffee…on the way to work, let us say. Then you hurry to work to be on time, an issue I seem to have more often than I would like. When you arrive at work you are in a hurry to have the work day end and be on your way home. During the ride home you are in a hurry to just get home so you can relax. Once at home, then we relax right? We hurry to make dinner so we could catch our favorite program, hurry through our household chores so we can finally get to bed and get some well deserved rest. When, at last, we finally find ourselves between the sheets our minds are still racing with thoughts of all we have to do tomorrow. It seems we just drift off into blissful slumber when the alarm clock beckons us to do it all again.
I don’t know about you, but I feel tired just reading that paragraph. The ironic thing about this whole mess is that we do it to ourselves. Time, as Einstein reminded us, is just a stubborn illusion. A better way to explain that is a thought I read on the bottom of a sales ad. how long 3 minutes is depends on what side of the bathroom door you are on. Of course, in at least one of those situations you are still in a hurry. Back to our example of the typical work day. It would seem the adult mind always races to what is next. While it is good to have a goal in mind and be focused on where you are going, it can certainly lead to increased sense of stress and anxiety.
Another thing we do that can leave us chasing time is multitasking. While it may seem like trying to accomplish as many things at once would leave us with more time, the opposite is generally true. The list of tasks in life is always growing and the only thing doing multiple things at once does is diminish the quality of job that we do on each task. It can leave us feeling overwhelmed and looking to ‘catch up’.
What is the solution for all of this? SLOW DOWN. The best way to slow down is to work on being present. Keeping our focus on what we are doing can help us appreciate all that is good about each moment. It will also help us feel less rushed. I know it may seem contrary to think that doing only one thing at a time will lead to more time, but it can. First of all, you do a better job by focusing on one thing at a time. This reduces the amount of time you have to redo things or correct mistakes. By focusing on one thing at a time you decrease the time each task takes. Not to mention it reduces the stress of overwhelm. Less stressed people are more productive people.
There are many ways in which we can learn the art of being present. There is one of my personal favorites, meditation. There are tons of free apps available. Some take as little as 5 to 10 minutes. There are also guided meditation videos on YouTube as well as available on CD. All you have to do is pop on a pair of headphones and relax away. You will emerge from that experience refreshed on more centered.
Another source of teaching on how to be present are children and animals. When we were young, we were much better at being able to appreciate the moment. A child could be lost in a moment of play for hours. As they grow older we teach them not to daydream and to focus on what needs to be done. Turning them into stressed out smaller versions of ourselves. Do yourself a favor and get lost in a moment of play yourself. Better yet, bring along a child to show you how it is done. Animals are the other half of this equation. Pet owners are generally less stressed than their pet-free counterparts. In addition to the love animals give us, they also remind, and sometimes force us to take moments to pause and totally live in the moment. I have watched a dog smell a tree for several minutes, every surface just to get the full story. While I wouldn’t recommend doing this as the neighbors may begin to refer to you as “That neighbor who smells trees” just taking a moment to fully appreciate what we are engaged in will reduce our stress and give us more time.