Living in the Moment.
It seems like the older we get, the less time stands still. Remember when you were a little kid? It seemed to take Christmas forever to arrive! And summer vacation – forget about it! Those long days spent in class, practicing cursive and memorizing multiplication tables made summer vacation seem like it was never going to happen. There was no end in sight! But as we get older, time speeds up. It seemed like just yesterday I was at a Halloween party, then celebrating Thanksgiving with friends. Last weekend, I was in Charleston for Christmas. This weekend, we’re ringing in the New Year. Where did 2016 go?!
As we get older, we get caught up with what’s around the corner. If we have a vacation we’ve spent months planning, we’re willing the days to go by faster. If we have a big project due for work or school, it consumes our thoughts and takes all of our focus as we prepare for it. Maybe we have a child who is at a difficult life stage – such as a newborn or a toddler – and we find ourselves thinking that just as soon as they get a little older, we’ll finally be able to get some sleep and maybe get a little of our lives back. We’re so consumed with what’s next that we forget to enjoy what’s going on in the present! Remember that adage, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, which is why we call it the present?” It’s true!
If we slow down and focus more on living in the present, not only are we living life more fully by savoring each moment, we’re increasing our chances of happiness – researchers have found that people who are fully present are happier, more optimistic, and less depressed. And being fully present tends to slow time down so that we’re able to live each moment as it happens instead of waking up six months later, wondering where the time went.
So how do we turn off our train of thought about the future long enough to live in the moment? It’s a learned skill, and a cursory Google search will present various steps you can take. However, there are a few that stuck out that I wanted to share here:
This one will be hard to put into practice, considering that at any given moment, we may be chatting with a friend, scrolling through our Facebook news feeds, and watching television – all at the same time. If we’re dividing our time among multiple tasks and priorities, how can we expect to do any one thing well? We can’t. We’re not giving our friend our full attention, we’re not invested in the story being played out on the television, and we’re not really reading our Facebook posts. The result is a bunch of – pardon my language here – half-assed actions that really aren’t adding any value to our lives, and don’t allow us to add value to our own lives, or to others. Next time you are engaged in a task, be engaged in only that task. Don’t be tempted to pick up your phone to make the time go by faster, or try to knock off multiple items on your to-do list. Focus on one thing at time. Not only will you notice that you are more productive, you’ll feel more satisfied because you are giving each thing your undivided attention.
Don’t jam-pack your to-do list.
This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the point above. Sure, you may feel like you have a million and one things to do, but take the time to write out your list, and prioritize your tasks. Focus on what truly needs to be done right away, and only when you are finished with those items can you move onto the next tasks – moving some to the next day, if need be. And remember – do one task at a time! You’ll be deliberately going through your to-do list, which is much more productive than just rushing from item to item.
Do nothing for five minutes each day.
Taking just five minutes out of your day to sit in silence will do wonders for your mental state. This will allow you to clear your mind so that when you go back to work, you will be much more focused and relaxed – both of which are needed for productivity. And it also allows you to practice focusing fully on the present.
As we get ready to ring in 2017, you might be thinking of New Year’s Resolutions. This year, in addition to whatever resolutions you may make, consider committing to living in the moment. Enjoy every moment of the new year. Don’t wake up after another 365 days have gone by saying, “Where did 2017 go?!”
P.S. For more great tips on how to be fully present, check out this Reader’s Digest article.