We all try to avoid the dreaded S word. But it somehow creeps up on us from time to time. Yes, we all want to lead productive lives and accomplish many honorable things but we do not want to develop high-blood pressure and ulcer in the meantime. And we all know from all the medical research that has been done that STRESS can do all of that and more.
So, how do we strike a balance? Is there even such a thing as BALANCE anymore? Here are my thoughts on how to reclaim our lives from all the hidden stress.
1. BE PRESENT: Being present has been my motto for the past 5 years. These two simple words literally transformed my life. Before knowing about being present and mindfulness in general, I felt I was living life on the go. With so many commitments, so many deadlines, I was always being dragged by things that had to be done, rather than doing what mattered the most. And being on auto-pilot while doing the mandatory, I wouldn't even get to savor the journey.
All of that changed in 2010 when I declared, "enough is enough". We moved out of the hustle and bustle of NYC to the gorgeous suburbs of Raleigh, North Carolina. Yes, we literally left everything behind because we wanted to be present and focus on what truly mattered. And this is when I found my peace of mind and decided that I was going to make EVERY single moment matter. No more living life on a speedway! I am here to enjoy the ride, the breeze and yes, have time to smell the flowers.
When you become present, you notice the small things that you did not take the time to notice before. You notice the smile on the face of your child as you pick him up from school. You notice the beauty in the eyes of your spouse as he tells you about his biggest dreams. You go for a walk and notice the beauty of the sky, the shapes of the clouds and feel the warmth of the sun to your core. And these simple realizations make you feel ALIVE. Living a life of presence is really the only way to living a life of meaning. It is also one of the best ways to reflect on your purpose on this earth.
2. STOP MULTITASKING: One of the most overrated things is MULTITASKING. Some people even brag about being the multitasking queen or king. If you are one of those people, let me break it to you as gently as possible. Studies reveal that multitasking not only kills your productivity but it may even damage your brain. According to a research done at Stanford, multitasking is less productive than doing one thing at a time and that people who multitask have problems with focus, memory and overall alertness.
Like most people, I used to think multitasking was actually a crucial skill. It is somehow engrained in us that if we can run several projects or manage to do many things simultaneously without losing our minds, we are considered super human. What I have realized over the years is that multitasking takes away from the joy of focusing on the task at hand. This goes back to the concept of being present. So, if you are texting while talking to your loved one who is sitting right across from you, you might think you are actually being productive. After all, you are spending time with your spouse, or your parent or any loved one and you are also getting some work done. Even though you might mean well, you are not being productive at all. You are merely stealing from the pleasure of focusing on what matters. You are letting two things battle for your attention. And you are hurting your relationships in the process.
3. LEARN TO SAY NO WITHOUT FEELING GUILTY: Most people have a problem saying no whether it is an obligatory business invitation or a task that is pushed on them at work. You see, when you say yes to EVERYTHING that comes your way, you are in a way saying no to things you truly care about. For instance, if you feel obliged to accept every invitation, outing request, phone call, or anything else that may come up, you are trimming away the time that you could be spending on things of true value. Time is the most important commodity for humans especially for those who strive to become productive. So, learning to say no will free you mentally and physically. When you learn to say no without feeling guilty, you learn to say yes to what you are passionate about.
4. DELEGATE, DELEGATE, DELEGATE: Last but definitely not least, delegate tasks that someone else can do. Some may think, this is being lazy. On the contrary, this is all about focusing on what you and only you can do and delegating the rest to another person who is capable of handling that. This could mean teamwork as in the case of having specific chores assigned to each individual in a household or hiring help when needed while working on a project. Accept the fact that you cannot do it all. And in fact realize that you shouldn't be doing it all. At the end of the day, focusing on what you do best will make you the most productive person that you have ever been. And instead of becoming mediocre at a bunch of things, you will become a master of the one thing you are great at.