- Posted Tuesday October 12, 2021
In this latest article in her Mindful Insight series, Thornfields Manager Charan Sarai explores the concept of time. How we perceive it, create it and manage it can have a huge impact on us, both personally and professionally. Here, Charan looks at how practicing mindfulness and ‘being present’ can help with time management, as well as boosting our wellbeing.
“Lost time is never found again, and what we call time- enough, always proves little enough” —Benjamin Franklin, 1758
Where does it go? It’s something we say frequently as we look disapprovingly at our watches. What happens with time? Where does it go?
Researcher Brad Aeon explains, "Time management helps people feel better about their lives because it helps them schedule their day-to-day tasks around their values and beliefs, giving them a feeling of self-accomplishment." Researchers also noted that time management skills can have an effect on anxiety and distress.
Life happens, just at the very moment a decision is made that things must change. Time seems to be taken from us constantly; many people get that awful feeling that they won’t get their work finished on time. This in turn leads to anxiety and stress. Like many, they may have looked on the day with optimism and wanted to make some headway with the pile that seems to have grown and the number of emails that landed in their in-box.
It would be great if we could manage a day, so that when it ends we can say WOW! That was a good day, I got things done, hooray! Unfortunately for many, that doesn’t seem to happen. Then feelings of frustration start to creep in, and stress may start to build.
Some start to panic, feel ill, suddenly their concentration starts to disappear, and their mind starts to wander off to doom and gloom. Nothing gets done and for some, the worry starts to kick in.
Surely this is the time to use our bells... Yes, our mindfulness bells! Usually these are rung at the beginning of a mindfulness session, particularly a meditation session, or at the end to signify the end of a practice.
If you don’t have a bell, I would suggest finding an image or sound that would trigger you to stop, pause and reconnect. Co-opt a normal opportunity into your mindfulness. The sound of the meditation bell is thought to promote a sense of peace and calmness—something that is vital in our busy days and essential for our well-being.
It’s been good to talk with managers who are taking mindfulness seriously and have shared that mindfulness meditation has helped in freeing them from time pressures. When asked how, they share that they come back (after meditating) looking at the challenges more creatively, feeling happier and less anxious once the connection has been made.
Others state that they like to get on with making a start on the various tasks that come up, as sometimes this is often the hardest thing to do. Once they have made the start, they get the energy to move things on and carry on.
I have heard that people try to squeeze meetings into a shorter span of time under the heading of ‘being more efficient’, whilst others are slotting smaller tasks that ‘shouldn’t take long’ into the gaps between appointments. Yet this way of managing can cause further stress instead of reducing it. The efficient process makes way for more work, and more work can cause more stress in the long run. It’s interesting that some don’t stop to look at the cause. Maybe it’s the volume of work, distractions, or badly thought-out decisions, or perhaps it’s just not appropriate work for them to be doing.
Some have commented on remote working during the Covid-19 pandemic; more than ¾ of people report that working remotely saves them time. I think of our teams in terms of commuting and business travel and the time taken off this activity. Others have shared how much more productive they are working from home.
Research carried out by HBS shows that the average workday has expanded by a full 30 minutes globally. That’s an interesting fact, as it’s the direct opposite of what we would expect if people are using their time more productively and efficiently. The sad fact is that it’s time taken from what would naturally be classed as their private time and consequently it isn’t good for their well-being.
We can so easily get trapped in an overload of work.
Are you forever having to make time for work that your colleague has included you in, which then becomes a priority for you because of their deadlines? Some may say that’s ‘just how it is’, but it adds that extra bit of stress you could have done without. You may have successfully time-managed your week or even planned for weeks ahead, but then comes the extra on top of the extra, which may just take you to a burnout situation.
Other managers have commented that they rarely like to make it known that they have a window available in their diary, because from experience it seemed to signal that they are free to take on additional work, or they are free for another meeting.
If you want to feel better about the busy day ahead, the following mindfulness tips may be helpful:
Being present—for the overworked
- Use the mindfulness bells or substitutes that help you to stop, pause and reconnect.
- Use mindfulness meditation which can free you from the pressure of time and help with creativity.
- Make a start, especially on the tasks that will take time and you’re perhaps inclined to put off.
- Don’t get into the habit of squeezing in meetings. Be mindful of you and take care of you.
- Don’t allow others to make their priorities your priorities. Be transparent about what you have on your plate already.
- Don’t allow your private time to be eroded by work priorities.
Practice being present by… expanding your focus plan
- Try not to multitask: finishing or completing a task gives you that sense of satisfaction that’s its done and you’re in control. Your total focus has been on that one task, done well.
- Stress reduction is key: worrying only paralyses you to do nothing and causes stress. Just live the experience of what you are involved in. Use the meditation as the remedy and release the stress.
- Lose yourself in the task: be in the moment and forget what’s going on around you. You’re usually more productive and happier as a result.
Celebrate every 'being present' moment. So wherever you are, you will be all there.