Slowing Down

On October 20, 2014, in mindfulness, by rita

In my previous blog post, I wrote about “Deep Breathing”. It seemed to strike a chord with many of you. The sentiment I heard back was that, like me, you too are often rushing through your day. You appreciated the idea that “Deep breathing was like a “power break” for our racing minds. That helped inspire the theme for this post i.e. “Slowing down”.turtle and roses Oct '14

It is hard for us to think of slowing down in a world where multi-tasking is the norm and the words “I’ve been so busy” are a badge of honor. It might help to remind ourselves how as children we heard our parents asking us to “Slow Down”. They were warning us because they probably saw us doing something in haste that was not going to end well. As we grow older there is no one to remind us to slow down. So this is a habit that we now have to consciously cultivate and practice ourselves.

Let us begin by understanding why we need to slow down. It is easy to appreciate that doing too much or being rushed can cause us stress. Stress can manifest itself in many ways such as general anxiety, developing a short fuse, being curt with our loved ones,or perhaps committing minor acts of road rage. However what we may not appreciate is that stress can also be contagious.

Have you noticed that when a harried person enters a room, the atmosphere in the room can suddenly change? People are able to pick up on surrounding tension and then become unconsciously agitated themselves. A single person can change the tone in a family or group. So it is important to be aware that when we go faster and faster, we are actually being insensitive to others around us. On the other hand when someone at peace and free from hurry, enters the room, that person can have a calming effect on everyone.

Slowing down is beneficial to us and to those around us. We become peaceful when, when we slow down. Slowing down does not mean we become lazy or lethargic. It simply means we train our minds to be present in the moment. The more we slow down the thinking process, the more we regain control over our lives.

The Buddha calls this “living intentionally”. It is a way of life. Slowing down is not the goal but simply a means to an end. The goal is living in freedom – freedom from the pressure of hurry and distractions. When the mind is unhurried, it is able to make wise choices of how we use our time and resources, and I believe this is within the reach of everyone.

All this is great in theory but how do we put this into practice? In my opinion, it comes all comes down to prioritizing what is most important and must be done and what can be deferred.

Let me describe one simple tool that I personally find useful in helping me prioritize my personal and work tasks. Some of you may already be familiar with this grid diagram popularized by Steven Covey.

I have attached a grid diagram that you could use to prioritize your tasks.

Important Not Important
Urgent
Not Urgent

The first quadrant is “Urgent and Important”, the second quadrant is “Not Urgent and Important”, the third quadrant is “Not Urgent and Important” and the fourth quadrant is “Not Urgent and Not Important”.

You can list your tasks in the “Important” and “Not Important” categories, with the “Urgent” and “Not Urgent” subcategories. Now look closely at the “Urgent and Important” quadrant. Attend to them first, and when you have the time look at the “Important and Not Urgent” quadrant.

You can ignore the “Not Important and Not Urgent” quadrant tasks completely. After finishing the tasks in the two important categories, you can attend to the “Not Important and Urgent” quadrant. Update this time management diagram on a daily, weekly or on a monthly basis or as needed.

I like to list my tasks in these quadrants to help me prioritize tasks. By prioritizing and organizing my tasks in this way I am able to identify and focus on what is really important and ease my mind of other things that otherwise could conspire to overwhelm me.

To me this is a simple but effective tool. Are there any tools and mechanisms you use to cope with the stresses and pace of modern life? I look forward to your thoughts in the comments below.

References : Take your Time by Eknath Easwaran
Image Credit: Arya Natarajan

 

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