Do you have days when you ask yourself how you could make your day last longer?
No matter what your social status, how much money you have and how many people you know, every day your wallet of time is refilled with 24 hours to spend. How you are going to consume it depends on you.
Think for a second about all the moments in your life that gave you the most satisfaction. What was it that made it feel this way? Was it specific people, or maybe the thing you were doing?
Usually these moments are connected with a feeling of deep engagement in some activity, or the sense of being right here, right now. Let us look closer at how we can consciously get into the states of Flow and Mindfulness.
This is how Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes ‘Flow’ in his book of that title:
Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.
If you want to make your day last longer, you have to possess the skill of getting into Flow. It is not merely about having more time. It is about getting the most satisfaction out of that time. Do you remember some challenging activity that engaged you for several hours? I bet the feeling at the end of it was really worth it!
My adventure with Flow started with eliminating distractors and applying the Pomodoro Technique for just one hour per day. I was amazed how much I could accomplish when I turned off all distractors and focused on one thing completely. Then I started to raise the bar and make most of my activities challenging. This way I was more energized and stimulated. I was learning faster and with greater joy.
The opposite feeling, known very well to all people, is entropy. Described by Csikszentmihalyi thus:
When we are left alone, with no demands on attention, the basic disorder of the mind reveals itself. With nothing to do, it begins to follow random patterns, usually stopping to consider something painful or disturbing.
It is all about moving from entropy to flow. See this short film about finding your creative flow state:
Your day can be full of activities that get your energized focus, yet there is a completely different state of mind you need as well. It is Mindfulness. It is concentrated attention and awareness about the present.
Just think about the moment you are reading these words. Think about how you breathe. Think if you are relaxed. Think about the tensions in your body. Look at your hands. Feel the smell. Look at the people and items around you. Consider what you feel and think.
This moment is called: Here and Now. Let it be the 30 longest seconds you have ever spent. Don’t lose your focus!
I started my adventure with Mindfulness during my daily shower. I was thinking about the day: What happened? What have I learned about the world and about myself? At the same time my focus was shifting – I could feel the water, how it touches my skin. How it feels. How it smells. How it looks. I was completely present in that moment. Later I tried to put that practice into every minute of my day, at work and at home – to sense my feelings, thoughts, the feelings and the faces of others, aroma. I swear I felt time slowed down.
Try it. When you have your next meal, just allocate 100% of your attention to the smell, the look and the way it tastes. This may be your best meal in a long time!
Always remember that when you are left alone, with no demands on your attention, your mind will eventually wander into something painful or disturbing. If you want to make your day last longer, you want to maximize the time that you are in the Flow and Mindfulness states: be completely present in the activity, or just focus on here and now.