‘One lives so badly, because one always comes into the present unfinished, unable, distracted.’ — Rainier Maria Rilke, Letters on Cézanne
Nothing describes the state of our minds better than Rilke’s statement. When doing something, your mind often wanders to another thing. You think about installing your laminate flooring while eating the cake your friend specially baked for you. You make a mental list of what you should buy when you drop by the grocery while listening to your kids talk about their day at school.
Stop living in your head and start being present by practicing these tips.
Wake up at least 30 minutes before everyone else does.
If you’re not convinced this is worth your precious minutes in dreamland, observe how you feel when you get up and you immediately need to rush through your preparations for the day. And you’re in a frenzy with everyone else in your house. Contrast it with when you wake up to a calm and quiet environment. You don’t have to be a yoga practitioner or a meditation aficionado to appreciate this morning ritual.
You have 30 minutes to savor your coffee or tea or whatever fuels your day. Use this time to ground yourself. Think of it as a free time when you are free to let your mind wander without any guilt. Maybe you’d like to fantasize about your upcoming vacation, a party you’re preparing, a novel you’re dreaming of writing. Don’t wait for the day’s end for your ‘me time.’ Start your day with it.
If you want to have a long sleep, go to bed earlier. It’s also healthier than staying up late. Turn it into a habit so you don’t have to use an alarm clock to wake up. The alarm clock’s ringing could also affect your brain when you are jolted from your sleep.
Make your schedule for the following day before logging off work.
Making a list of everything you need to do gives you a feeling of being in control instead of just having a mental checklist. When you have to think of several things at once, it could overwhelm you.
Don’t put your corkboard in front of you at your work station.
The various notes, reminders, and calendars you tack on it are very distracting. When you work, focus on the task at hand. You might be tempted to already think of the next workload you will tackle, but discipline yourself to keep your mind in check. When your mind drifts away from your task at hand, take time again to refocus. As our brains tend to shift now and then, lessen the external factors.
If you could, place your corkboard behind you and check it only when you need to consult what you’re supposed to be doing next. If you don’t have a wall behind, you could put it beneath your desk. It’s not a common practice because people think their self-reminders should always be visible all the time. It’s even counterproductive. If you want a prompt, make an alarm for it.
Make a schedule for your day.
It doesn’t have to be exact, but knowing how your day will flow ensures you allocate time to the most important tasks you need to accomplish. You will also have an idea of how much time you’ll be spending on something so that you could pace yourself accordingly.
Allocate time for breaks. It is important to take a break, especially after finishing a mentally draining task. Like when doing physically strenuous work, you have to rest and refresh your mind. Use your break for breathing in some fresh air, see some greenery.
If you don’t know yet how to estimate time allocations, try the Pomodoro Technique. It pushes you to focus for at least twenty-five minutes. You get a break after each time block, but not too long that you lose interest in your work.
Do something for yourself at the end of the day.
It could be reading a book, playing a musical instrument, watching an episode of a series you’re following. You need this shift to condition your brain to stop working about work you have the following day. As has been recommended, you should already have this on your task list for the following day. So when you log off your work, leave it at that. Your personal life should be your only concern once you step out of your office.
These are simple things that we could gift ourselves every day. At first, they may seem trivial, but once we get into the practice of guiding and controlling our minds, it would be easier for us to enjoy the present as we live through every moment.