In this era of over achieving, we all crave a sense of balance between our work lives and personal lives. Being omni-present and productive at work, often comes at the expense of our personal and family life. So much so that 32% of British parents report prioritising work over spending time with their kids, according to TaskRabbit. The fact is, there is probably not enough time in the day to be everything we want to be to everyone both at home and at work. But we do not need to stress, or beat ourselves up for needing some extra help sometimes. Here are some practical ways that we can use mindfulness and self-awareness to identify our limits and help us get more done, more efficiently and with less stress.
1. Meditate rather than procrastinate
Often the way we think about and process our workload can be chaotic - it can be so overwhelming that we dread starting those looming tasks. Nearly half of all Londoners say they are stressed at work and a third are downright unhappy on the job according to research from TaskRabbit. Given the amount we have going on and the stress that comes with it, mindfulness meditation presents a great tool to help us settle our minds, bodies and emotions. If we make it a habit to meditate in the morning, this will help us have a more focussed and productive day. Try starting each day with a 10-15 minute meditation or mindful breathing practice, where you just take this time to focus on the sensations of your breath in your chest or belly. If you are new to mindfulness, you might want to try following a book and guided meditation or an app like Headspace. Meditation can help you settle your nervous system and disentangle the thought chaos, enabling you to think clearly and approach the day in a more structured way. It will also leave you feeling less overwhelmed and anxious, and ready to get things done or delegated.
2. Make a To-DUN List
Make a list of all the tasks that you want to address each day (including personal chores and errands). As you are writing your to-do list, be curious about what kind of emotions arise for you. Some tasks might make you feel excited, other tasks might evoke anxiety or dread, others you might feel indifferent towards. Be curious about your physical and mental response to your tasks and try not to judge yourself. It is normal that we have preferences and every person is different. Once you have written down all of the tasks, label each one with the letter D, U, or N. Write D next to the tasks you find 'delightful', U if you find the task 'uninspiring' and N if you are feeling 'neutral' about the task.
3. Wise Choices
Mindfulness is not only about paying attention to our preferences and inner reactions, it is also about making more conscious choices. You can use this as you decide which tasks on your to-do list to tackle. You might find yourself naturally wanting to do the ones you marked as delightful and neutral. The less pleasant ones are more likely to get procrastinated on or half-started. If we investigate why, it might be that it is not our personal strength, we cannot do them efficiently or perhaps these tasks are just boring. Sometimes the wise decision is to delegate or outsource these things, which is where services like TaskRabbit can help by matching us with someone with the right skills, at the right time to take on tasks from cleaning to DIY and personal assistance. As tempting as it is, try not to hand over everything though! Sometimes it is good to do tasks that we are apprehensive about or unsure of, as we can learn something new and feel a sense of achievement afterwards.
4. Hi Achievement List
Often we simply tick off the completed tasks from our to-do lists and move to the next one. Even once we have finally managed to get through a heap of long-dreaded filing, for example, we might allow ourselves just a fleeting moment of satisfaction and then quickly move on to the next task. We encourage you to spend some time really acknowledging your achievements. Put some time aside each day to log your accomplishments in a "Well-Done" list. As you do so, note the feeling of completing something, including the things you have decided to delegate or outsource. If happiness, pride, a sense of relief or freedom arises, let it arise and notice how this impacts your body and feeling of wellbeing -- maybe you even sense a slight smile on your face. Congratulate yourself and consider using the time you have freed up to do something nice for yourself.
5. Re-invest your time in well-being
At its heart, mindfulness is about self-care and being kind to ourselves. Not only do we take care of ourselves when we start the day with a meditation or tune into our feelings periodically throughout the day, but also when we seek help with our tasks, chores or errands that can get on top of us. Once we start really spending our work and free time on the things we consciously chose and wish to do, we will also be more focussed and productive at work. Not only does this decrease our stress levels and heighten our sense of achievement, it will also give us more time for our personal lives. Whether it be to catch up on sleep, go to the gym, spend time with family and friends, or do more pleasurable tasks, these things will in turn nourish us and help us regain a sense of life balance.
By Alexa Frey and Autumn Totton, co-founders of The Mindfulness Project