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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 October 22, 2020

2 Transformational Ways to Spark Your Creative Energy

2 Transformational Ways to Spark Your Creative Energy

Good things come in twos: Peanut butter and jelly, Day and night, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The same is true for what sparks our creative energy: our thoughts and actions.

Creativity is an inside job as much as it is about a conducive schedule, physical environment, and supportive behaviors. By establishing the right internal and external landscape, creativity can blossom from the abstract to the concrete and we can have fun along the way.

Sparking creativity is all about setting up the right conditions so a spark is ignited and sustained. The sparks don’t fizzle out. They are allowed to grow and ripen.

Think of a garden. Intention alone will not produce the delicious red tomato nor will the readiest seed. That seed needs attention at its nascent stage and as it grows a stalk and produces fruit. If we want to enjoy more than one fruit, we keep at it, cultivating the plant and reaping multiple harvests.

Creativity lives in each of us like seeds in the earth or encapsulated in a nut. Seeds of ideas, concepts, designs, stories, images, and even ways of communicating that surprise and delight await activation.

By sparking our creative energy, we activate these unique seeds. Like snowflakes, they are of a moment and always without a match. The smallest sparks encourage even the smallest, most dormant seeds to sprout.

The good news is that our creative energy wishes to be sparked—to be invited to play. It wants to be our regular playmate.

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1. Be Childlike in Your Thoughts, Attitudes, and Approach

Being childlike in our thoughts, attitudes, and approach is an easy way to internally have our thoughts be gracious prolific gardeners to our creative energy. If we want it to come out and play and hang around as our regular companion, then let’s return to our 5-year-old selves.

Our childhood selves are naturally curious. We still have that curiosity! All we have to do is remind ourselves to get curious. We can do that by simply observing and being with what is in front of us instead of making up a story about what won’t work or why something can’t be done. So, it’s about cultivating curiosity instead of jumping into judgment.

Move Your Inner Judge to the Sidelines

When we get curious, creativity percolates and, ultimately, takes its place in the world. To give a hand in choosing curiosity over judgment, we can move the judge that also lives inside us to the sidelines. The judge squashes our creative urges, even when they are as small as sharing a point of view. It’s that pesky voice that causes us to doubt ourselves or worry about what others will think.

The judge is also risk-averse. The judge likes things to stay the same. Change makes the judge nervous.

Creativity is all about risk and changing things up. It needs risk, even failure, to be its naturally innovative, dynamic, impactful self. The judge likes to convince us failure is something to be avoided at all costs.

To move the judge to the sidelines and let curiosity reign, we can pay attention to who we are in conversation with and who is calling the shots.

Is it the voice of fear, doubt, or anxiety (the inner-critic—the judge’s boss)? Or is it the voice of wisdom, courage, strength, and non-attachment, and of course curiosity (the inner-leader)?

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We can easily tell the difference by how each makes us feel. The inner-critic depletes and slows us down, putting roadblocks in the way. The inner-leader energizes and a natural rhythm develops.

It’s all about who we spend time with. If we wish to exercise, we will seek out our friends who go to the gym or hike. If we want to lose some weight, we will opt to eat dinner with someone who prefers a healthy spot over fast food.

After getting curious, we can honor what our curiosity prompts us to do. The spark can do its job and a fire starts to glow when commitment enters. Our childhood selves were fully committed to being creative. That level of commitment is still something we are very capable of exercising!!

Again, we need to let go of the judge. We can ask ourselves, what do we want to commit to—negativity that depletes our creative energy, depth, and output, or the understanding that our thoughts and attitudes matter and that right thoughts and attitudes are the sparks that really let our creativity come alive?

Learn to Recall Your Childhood Self

To get in touch with that unabashedly committed childhood self, recall your childhood self. If you have a picture, pull one out. Keep it around so you can remember to activate that innate creative nature that was prominent then and wants to be prominent now and always.

Soak in the essence of that being. Commit to their commitment to brave and dogged trial and error because it is yours as well. You are that person.

Remember how tenacious you were when you wanted to build that sandcastle. You kept at it as the waves came in. You built with fury or reconfigured the walls. Also, remember that there was a willingness to fail since you were as invested in the process as well as the outcome—but less with the outcome. You were willing to experiment and start again. There was vitality—the main lifeline of your creative energy—instead of a rigid attachment.

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When you notice you are in conversation with your inner-critic or being held back by it, simply acknowledge, name it, and then switch to your inner-leader by taking a few good deep belly breaths, rubbing two fingertips together, or listening to ambient sounds in the background.

Physical movements shift our negative thoughts over to the positive domain of the inner-leader. As our judge continues to sit on the sidelines, our ability to quiet the inner-critic becomes stronger. We taste freedom. A simple taste emboldens us to say no again to the judge and yes to what makes our hearts and spirits sing—our creativity.

We begin to spark creativity to the point it no longer needs to be invited to play. It becomes our regular playmate—the younger sibling or the kid next door ready to have some fun, maybe even make some mischief by shaking things up.

When we align with our inner-leader and think and act from its promptings, creativity flows up and out with ease, as it needs to!

Letting those initial sparks generate a creativity fire that keeps burning is something we can all do! That’s the inside job.

2. Listen to Your Inner Leaders of Creative Energy

If we listen, our inner-leaders will let us know just what we need to set-up and do in our physical world to maximize that gorgeous, hungry creativity we now have flowing freely in us.

The seed has been unlocked! So, now what?

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To enable our creative energy to take its form and place outside of us, there needs to be spaciousness! Spaciousness in our physical worlds impacts our internal one. It lets the voice of the inner-leader be heard. It lets creativity have room to be sparked and acted upon.

With a little discipline, we can easily create spaciousness in our daily lives—spaciousness that will spark our creativity and let it take shape.

So, no matter who you are and what conditions help your creativity thrive, check-out these easy-to-implement basic suggestions:

  • Reduce or eliminate multi-tasking.
  • Say yes to what matters and what aligns with your big values and goals.
  • Say no to all else.
  • Say no again.
  • Schedule time in your calendar as you do with other things in your life to just be, to ponder, to let ideas percolate, and to create.
  • Spend time doing the things that bring out your creative energy. It could be walking, singing, or simply looking out the window.
  • Meditate.
  • Breathe—long breaths in and long breaths out through the nose.
  • Invite your body and heart into your experiences so your mind is a part of you and not all of you.
  • Try a new thing to spark your creativity. If you spend time running, try a different route. If running feels stale, cruise around a museum, or go for a bike ride.
  • Play a game. Indoors out or outside. Think of what makes you happy that you haven’t done in a while. Is it a physical game like badminton or cards? Maybe it’s storytelling? Play is creative, and it sparks the creative energy, too.
  • Spend time in the places that bring out your creativity. What spot in your home could be your spot for entering into that mode? Do you need to get out? Maybe a park bench is the right spot, with a book of poetry, or even nothing at all.
  • Spend time in nature. Nature brings us to a place of calm and awe and through that our creativity is easily sparked.

Final Thoughts

These are all habits—habits of mind and habits of doing. Experiment with what works for you. Have fun. If you give even 50% to altering your thoughts and actions, then you will begin to spark your creativity. It takes a lot of curiosity and commitment, but it can definitely be done.

Our innate creative energy is a deep source of all that we seek—joy, connection, renewal. It deserves and looks forward to the changes you will make that will let sparks fly and ignite!

More Tips to Spark Your Creative Energy

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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