Perspective is lost through our obsession with productivity, and from our connection to a flat screen. Our devices of choice include ipads, e-readers, and of course, the PC/Mac. When was the last time you put them away? Sarah Ban Breathnach encourages us not to use Sunday as a jumpstart on the upcoming week. Similarly, Dorie Clark explains that after taking a month long hiatus (unplugged) in India, she was able to craft her most prolific posting. If going cold turkey (even for a short time) is too frightening, consider making minor modifications in your daily routine that can have a huge impact.
- Delineate hours devoted to work and non-work. This is especially important if your job is at home – estimates are that telecommuters actually spend about twelve hours daily “working” because the office is ever present. Establish boundaries – work should only be performed (unless an emergency arises) on certain days, between certain hours, and in a designated area. If sleep is on your agenda, it’s not conducive to bring your laptop into the bedroom and check e-mail.
- Take it down a notch. I don’t think we were meant to constantly check our “inbox” – a prospect that was unthinkable (and even unfeasible) with regular mail delivery. Inefficiencies of this type simply waste time, divert our attention, and make us nervous. It’s impossible to relax if you’re constantly anticipating an e-mail catastrophe. Can you limit your checking to morning and evening? Can you turn off the computer/Blackberry/Smartphone one day/week? Small adjustments of this sort can amount to a dramatic impact on your life experience. Moreover, the “pressure” of having to stop work at a certain point would make you more efficient by force. It’s interesting to note that Chik-fila-A (which is closed one day per week) outsells its competitors that are open Sunday.
- Limit the onslaught of noise you experience in the morning. Do you turn on the TV first thing (and is it the last thing you hear before bed)? Listening to a litany of bad news sets the tone for your day, and distracts you from engaging in more centering pursuits – e.g., yoga, reading, and meditation. Peter Walsh suggests keeping the TV off for one month. If the average person watches four hours/day, think about all the activities for which you currently “don’t have time.” Take the challenge and see if it doesn’t lessen your desire to watch the tube. As one of my friends (who’s a teetotaler in this area) explained, “There’s always something better to do.”
Seeing what’s important involves eliminating what’s not. Blinders are many times of our own making – they derive from our willingness to overload our senses with the unnecessary. Discipline in establishing and maintaining your priorities is thus the portal to a more pleasant life experience. Embroiled in what we consider our own life and death battle du jour, it’s difficult to see the forest for the trees.
Only when we take a break and step back do we see the folly of expending too much time on trivial pursuits, and the error of “all work and no play.” If we spend a lifetime in this fashion all is lost. As a wise friend once told me, “it goes by like a roll of toilet paper.” None of us guaranteed another day. Do you want to spend precious moments obsessing over minutiae, or participating more fully in all that life has to offer? The choice is yours. The flame of our self-imposed intensity can extinguish the very life force that’s able (if treated with care) to solve our problems.