Do you ever feel like you are always rushing, and that work/life balance is simply unattainable? Do you ever wake up feeling anxious or overwhelmed at what is on your plate? Do you ever wish you had more time?
Our culture is obsessed with always being “on” and doing more. It rewards the busy with status and often money. In fact, busy has become a badge of honour that we wear either with fake reluctance or outright pride. We seem to be doing more but have less and less time to do the things we really want.
This constant busy-ness is a stress on our nervous systems and it’s prohibiting us from enjoying the lives we are actually living as we rush from one thing to another without slowing down to enjoy where we are. It has us distracted and overstimulated, reaching for our phones and spending time mindlessly.
Engaging with time mindfully allows us to complete more tasks, worry less, slow down and enjoy more.
Mindful time is about consciously choosing how we spend our time – what we focus our attention on – which ultimately means how we live our lives. It may sound impossible but there are a few simple steps you can take to add a mindful lens to how you spend your time.
Let’s start at the end
Close your day well. This is the top tool that you can start using today to change your relationship to time.
What is the end of the work day usually like for you? Glad to get the hell out of there and push aside all thoughts of the place until the next day? Quickly closing down your computer but it’s only a pause as you’ll be back on it in a few hours at home? Rushing to finish something and ending up late out of the office? None of these are nourishing or satisfying, which is honestly what work can be! Closing your day well is about drawing a line that clearly ends the work day. This lets your brain and your nervous system know that it can relax, your mind can (freely) focus on other areas of your life (you know, all that stuff that you’d do if you had a work/life balance?). Your nervous system needs to rest and your body needs to rejuvenate, it can’t do that when it’s in alert/responsive mode – your system needs to know that you are no longer at work. You need to close your work day clearly and purposefully. You’ll discover how to do this below.
It’s also about preparation. You can’t fully relax if there are work issues that need attending to and so closing your day well is about taking everything in hand: planning what you will attend to, when you’ll do it and what support you might need.
And finally, it’s about enjoying your life! It’s a process of reviewing and connecting to what you’ve done and what you’re grateful for. We spend so much time at work that this step is critical to enjoying the life we are living as well as learning and growing from our experiences. If you feel like you are drifting in an unfulfilling job then this stage is especially important for you. If you spend your evening stressing about how things went at work then this stage is especially important for you. If you want to move forwards with confidence and clarity then this stage is especially important for you.
How to close your day well
This outline includes the ideal steps but you can of course tweak it to make the process work best for you. It will take longer at first but the more you do it the quicker you’ll be able to do it.
- Schedule it. Begin to end your day at least 15 mins before you want to finish work. So if you want to leave the office at 6pm, start to close your day from 5:45pm.
- When it is approaching time to close the day, pause your task and make yourself any handover notes you need so you can pick it back up with ease.
- Next you close your day well by reviewing your day.
- Jot down what you did that day, top level how you spent your time including procrastination or non-work activities.
- Write 3-5 things that went well. What did you do that you can be proud of?
- Write down anything that could have gone better. What can you take responsibility for? Either in your own actions or feeding back something you’ve noticed to someone who could use that information.
- Write down tasks that need to be completed.
- Schedule the worst or most intimidating task for the first of the day (getting it done first will make everything that follows a breeze and stops you stressing about it).
- Could you use some support? Is there some help you’d ideally like but aren’t clearly and specifically asking for? If so, add asking for it to your task list.
- You’re done. It’s all in hand, it might not be perfect but nothing will happen that can not wait until tomorrow. Breathe full breaths as you close down your laptop or tidy your workspace. Connect to the sense of satisfaction that the day is done.
It may not have been perfect but there was progress and tomorrow you can make further progress. You can always do more but you are choosing to stop here and to close your day well so you can use your energy on other things. You are done for today.
Now go enjoy your life, spend time doing things you enjoy, eat food you want to eat, love and move your body, connect to those you love.
Once this is a habit you’ll find you have more time to do what you love and less stress about your workload. Adding a closing process to you day takes a bit of time to bed in.
To embed a new habit you need to commit to it. Try it for a month and give the brain time to re-wire to the new routine which it will then come to expect. Let someone know that you are doing this new habit and update them on your progress. Having someone to be accountable to really helps us stay on track. Better yet do it together and update each other.
Closing your day well is one element of cultivating mindful time. There are four stages. Just like the seasons, they work in a cycle and this blog taught you how to incorporate some autumn energy into your daily rhythm. Mindfully working with the cycle of life in this way is how we become regenerative and avoid depletion and burn out. It’s the same cycle for us as it is for the planet.
To learn more about the other elements of mindful time, sign up to the blog.