How do you find the feeling of balance within yourself when you think it seems like you hardly have a moment to be still on any given day? Even just a few minutes of yoga or meditation can positively affect our productivity for several hours. But how can we make time for yoga or meditation when we feel like there’s really no time?
It’s not easy but it’s likely possible. However, it requires great discipline and that means, in many cases, an ability to recognize what is essential and what is not; an ability to say no, both to others and to yourself.
As usual, it starts with mindfulness. Make the commitment to notice your breath as frequently as you can. Every moment you spend aware of your breath is a moment of presence. We can only make sound decisions about how and where to apply ourselves when we are present and aware; presence and awareness are the prerequisites for clear-thinking and a clear mind leads to sound decisions. Notice your breath right now.
Let Go of Non-Essentials
This is a big one and it will be a practice that requires regular inquiry and experimentation. This is the discovery and decision-making process for which the previous practice is necessary. You’ll need to regularly revisit this process, readjusting as needed, as you observe the results.
First, take stock of how you spend your day. What are you investing your time in? You can notice this as you go about your day but you may want to journal about this and/or make a list of your daily activities.
Regarding your activities, ask yourself: Do I really need to clean that room right now or are am I cleaning out of habit and/or to avoid something else I need to do that is more pressing? Am I online shopping when I really need to be doing a work or school task? Am I talking on the phone with a loved one rather than engaging in more nourishing and necessary self-care practices? Am I meeting that friend for coffee because I really want to or out of habit or a feeling of obligation?
When we feel like there’s really no time, there likely is some time but we are unwilling to let go of habits or practices that we’ve convinced ourselves are essential, because they feel that way. For example, it irks me to see dirty dishes on the counter or crumbs on the floor, so I clean several times a day. While these may seem like good habits, I could do the dishes and sweep the floor once a day (rather than 3x/day) and free up 20-30 minutes for other activities. Instead of talking on the phone with my friend/sister/mom for 1 hour a week, I could talk to each one for a meaningful 15 or 20 minutes. And instead of editing, re-editing and rereading that email I sent, 3 times, I could move on and trust that it’s good enough, even if it’s not perfect.
In the same vein, rather than telling myself that meditating or doing yoga is not worthwhile unless I can devote at least 20 minutes to it, I could do it for the 10 minutes I have and notice if the effect is a positive one. I actually know it will be but I like to use the excuse that I don’t have time so that I can do other, less nourishing things like online shopping and washing those 5 dishes on the counter! But I know the meditation and the yoga are going to contribute more to my productivity in other areas than the dishwashing and the online shopping.
So, yeah, it’s difficult to find time when it feels like there’s really no time. It requires a new and improved level of discernment. But the more frequently that we notice our breath, become aware of our habits and make choices that better support our long-term needs, the easier it will be to make those choices next time. The benefit of time well-spent is its own reward.
So, next time you go to do that thing that you suspect might be non-essential, take a moment and notice your breath and ask yourself, “Might it be more beneficial for me to spend this 5 minutes meditating or stretching rather than doing these 5 dishes?”. It may be difficult but try doing the meditation or stretching instead and see how you feel. Find out for yourself what really nourishes you.
What are the habits that you need to look at so that you can find time when it feels like there’s really no time?