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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 March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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