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How to Live in the Present and Make Your Time Count

How to Live in the Present and Make Your Time Count

When you woke up this morning, you had a whole day ahead of you. And, when you go to bed, that same day will have passed.

This is just how time works, isn’t it? You’re losing time every second; and try as you may, you can never turn the clock back.

Time is such a precious and limited resource, yet often we neglect or abuse it, thinking that there’s still time left. We’re sometimes so focused on the wrong priorities that we end up spending our precious time on things that won’t matter in the long run. And, we may not be spending enough time on the things that do matter.

Have you ever reflected on how you’re spending your waking moments?

Maybe you could use more time in the day to get more work done. Or perhaps you crave spending more time with your family, but always feel overwhelmed with everything on your plate. You might have always wanted to start a hobby, or try something new, but never had the time to because of existing responsibilities.

Well, if you don’t start now… will you ever? Ask yourself, ‘am I really living my best life?’ 

Below are a few techniques to help you be more aware of your time spent, and how to truly make every second count.

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Be Mindful of the Present

Mindfulness can sometimes be a vague term. People often try to be mindful, or in the present, when on holidays, or when spending time with their loved ones. But, what does it really mean to be mindful of the present?

Well, it simply means to bring awareness to what you’re doing. It’s a practice that trains your brain to be more efficient and better integrated with your surroundings, so you’re less distracted and more focused. It also helps to minimize stress and allows you to become your best self.

So how can you practice mindfulness?

It need not take up any of your free time. You can practice mindfulness during routine activities such as when you’re brushing your teeth, taking a shower, eating breakfast or walking to work. Zoom in on the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feelings of these activities that you would otherwise be doing on auto-pilot.

A good time to practice is first thing in the morning when you wake up, as it helps set the ‘tone’ of your nervous system for the rest of the day, increasing the likelihood of other mindful moments.

One thing to note is that when you’re practicing mindfulness, it’s okay to let your mind wander. You don’t always need to be aware, as the act of noticing that your mind has wandered, and then bringing it back to awareness is in itself beneficial.

Our brains respond better to bursts of mindfulness, so it’s better to be mindful several times a day, rather than a lengthy one hour session, or even going to weekend retreats. For example, you could focus on how your feet feel in those shoes as you’re walking to work, or how your throat and tongue feels when you’re sipping on your morning coffee. These only take mere minutes of awareness.

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Lastly, the best way to cultivate mindfulness in everyday life is to train yourself to meditate. Practicing meditation is learning the language of being present, and helps us tap into mindfulness with little effort.

Appreciate the Here and Now

Besides practicing mindfulness, it’s also beneficial to appreciate what you have in your life at this very moment.

Whatever you’re doing, whether it’s a fun project or a mundane task, appreciate every moment of it, and make an effort to find the enjoyable aspects within it. For example, when walking to your car or to work, really feel the sensations of the pavement on your feet, the breeze in the air, the sights around you.

Anything can be enjoyable if you train yourself to see it that way. This can also be applied to doing laundry, washing dishes, or filing taxes!

You don’t need to only be grateful for the big things in life like money or material possessions. It’s the little things in life that if you can appreciate and find meaning in, you’re one step closer to truly living in the moment.

Stop Multitasking

Now this is a controversial one. It used to be that if you could multitask, you were seen as being more efficient and getting more done in less time. However these days, most productivity gurus would agree that multitasking is not the way to go about with efficiency. Shocked?

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Well, the simple explanation is that when you multitask, your concentration or attention is being split with the number of things you’re trying to get done. As a result, you’re actually less focused on each task which results in lower productivity, and likely more time needed or lower quality results.

So as much as you want to save time, it’s better to focus on one task at a time. When you feel the urge to switch to other tasks, pause, breathe, and pull yourself back into the single task you are currently focusing on.

Be Fully Present When Around Others

Often, when we spend time with others, we’re not really there with them. Physically, we may be present, but a lot of times we’re distracted by our phones or other devices. If not these, we might be distracted in our minds–thinking about the errands we need to run, or the email we need to reply to, or the dinner plans that we have the next evening.

Other times we may listen, but we’re actually thinking about ourselves and what we want to say to the person. This is all pretty common human behavior that most of us are guilty of, but the good news is that with effort, you can shut off the outside world and just be present with the people you’re spending time with.

This is a more effective use of your time and helps you connect with people rather than just being in the presence of them. Most people appreciate a deeper connection, especially with those whom they value, so really take time to make that happen.

Take Smartphone Breaks

Now, this is a common tip of which you’re probably familiar. But, it’s also really helpful– especially when you’re finding yourself constantly distracted at work, or at home while trying to relax.

It’s useful to disconnect from your phone so that you can focus on other things. The advantage to being connected all the time, of course, is that you have constant and immediate access to news, information, and alerts. But, the downside of that is also that it means you’re at the mercy of those incoming demands and alerts. You become accustomed to immediate responses, sometimes at the expense of other experiences.

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Professor Leslie Parlow of Harvard Business School found in a study that of 1,600 managers and professionals, 70% said they check their phones within an hour of waking up; 56% check their phone within an hour of going to sleep; 51% check their phone continuously during vacation; and 44% said they would experience ‘a great deal of anxiety’ if they lost their phone and couldn’t replace it for a week.[1]

You may argue that you’re not spending your time playing games or going on Facebook, but instead doing something more valuable. But, it’s not what you’re doing that matters as much as the time you lose when you switch back to a task.

When distracted by your phone, and acted upon, it takes up to 23 minutes to get back to the level of concentration where you left off before the interruption. So, if you let your phone interrupt you every 10 minutes, think about how much time and resources you’ve lost in a day?

Don’t Rush Through Life

At the end of the day, we all have a limited amount of time on earth, so we should strive to make the most of it.

That doesn’t mean we should be rushing and trying to do everything at once, so that we forget to smell the roses, be present with our loved ones and appreciate the little things in life.

It’s more important to know that the time you’re spending is spent meaningfully, and that you’re prioritizing the right things. If you haven’t been living in the present, the time is now!

Start practicing some of the tips I’ve shared above and watch your life transform slowly, as you move towards making every second count.

Featured photo credit: Photo by Djim Loic on Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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