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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
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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.

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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 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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