Life can get crazy busy. Racing here, rushing there. Thinking about the next task that needs to be done while still in the middle of the current one. Pushing through projects that you don’t enjoy and should have said “no” to, but somehow felt obligated to take on.
It’s exhausting. But it feels unavoidable. After all, the duties, obligations and unending to-do lists just keep stacking up. Multitasking and throttling through the day feels productive. And hey, you get to check stuff off your list.
But is that really the best way to get through the day?
The reality is, life is too precious to turn it into an unending task list to hurry through. If we want our lives to be balanced and healthy, we need to find ways to lighten our load and increase our down time. This means planning less in a day where possible, and taking the time to enjoy what we are doing, while we are doing it. We can change the quality of our day from harried to happy by slowing down.
Here is an example. Let’s say you have to stop by the grocery store on your way home from work. You have two options:
You are tired and frustrated that you have to stop by the store, wasting 20 minutes, when you could go straight home. You have so much to do! The parking lot is busy and you huff and clench your jaw while a driver takes his sweet time backing out. Once you are parked and finally in the store, you maneuver around people and grab the item off the shelf and rush to the checkout counter. While waiting in line, you run down a mental list of all you have to do when you get home – cook, clean, laundry, help your child with homework, then run over to your sister’s house because you promised to help her with her project. Oh, why did you promise to come tonight? Why won’t this checker hurry up?!
You are tired and have to stop by the store before going home. You realize it will take about 15-20 minutes to get in and out. But you acknowledge that it won’t help to feel rushed, and decide to just accept it and relax. You take a deep breath and let it out slowly. A driver is takes his time backing out. You see he is elderly, and is probably taking extra care. Once inside, you notice a cheerful bouquet of flowers that your sister will love, so you pick them up in addition to the item you came to get. You walk at a normal pace to the checkout line. You smile at the baby in the infant carrier in the basket in front of you. He rewards you with a big toothless grin. Later you’ll help your child with homework while dinner simmers on the stove. The laundry can wait until tomorrow. You know your sister will so appreciate your help. It will be a nice evening.
In both scenarios you had the same tasks and obligations. In the second one, however, an unnecessary task is postponed and there is marked difference in attitude. The conscious decision to slow down and live in the moment reduced anxiety and greatly improved the experience.
Slowing down is a cultivated art.
Before you roll out of bed in the morning, take a few minutes to think about how you want to be that day. While sipping your tea or coffee, close your eyes and think about your dreams. Check your email only a few times a day. Drive the slightly longer but less stressful route to work. Unpack your schedule. Find 15 minutes for yourself at the end of each day to relax in a bath. Pause to appreciate the sunset. Notice the small things.
Slowing down, both your mind and your schedule, allow you to experience your day with an entirely different energy. You’ll still get plenty done, and you will enjoy life so much more.