If you’ve ever read about the positive effects of meditation, chances are you would at the very least like to try it out – but who can find the time? Actually, you do: here’s how to combine chores and meditation into an effective one-two punch.
Journey first, destination second
Doing chores, or even recurring tasks at work, is something most people hate. I used to loathe them, too – but that was before I was able to change my perspective on chores from being something that takes away from my time into something which yields an entirely positive outcome. It’s not quite meditation, but it’s a taste of the positive side effects which stem from being able to empty ones mind.
The following two points are paramount if you are to achieve any sort of output: the level of ease with which a chore can be executed, and the amount of a given chore spends on your mind. As your head holds a black belt in denial, procrastination and general laziness, you need to give yourself a work list. Anything from a paper calendar to a recurring reminder on your smartphone will suffice. The key is to make sure that you do not, to the greatest possible degree, have to remember when a chore needs to be done.
As for making a chore easier to do, routines are the way to go. Convert as much as a chore of you can into a routine that your brain can convert into muscle memory skill, and deviate only if you have to: this way, it will over time become second nature for you in much the same way riding a bicycle (hopefully) is. You do remember how you, at least as a child, could ride along and suddenly realize you’ve gone for a mile without even noticing anything on the outside of your head, right? That’s what we’re aiming for.
Also, if a chore is done seldom and is a little bit complicated, create a procedural check list for yourself which you write down and can access easily. This way, you reduce your resistence towards getting started on it.
But what does this have to do with meditation?
Wikipedia has the following to say of meditation:
“Meditation refers to any of a family of practices in which the practitioner trains his or her mind or self-induces a mode of consciousness in order to realize some benefit.”
As you shift the execution of chores from the conscious towards the subconscious part of your brain, you will be able to empty your mind either for the purpose of letting thoughts wander, or simply for keeping the mind empty if you’re so inclined. Often, those who meditate rely on some external point to maintain their focus; for you, this can be the routines you have created for executing your chores – which is what I do.
There’s a zen proverb which also lends itself to the situation we’re talking about:
“Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water”.
As you can see, it refers to simple, repetitive tasks which can be committed to muscle memory and as such do not tax the brain. Chores.
The one-two punch
It may not be full-on, hardcore meditation in its purest form – but it’s an opportunity to clear and relax your mind, which is enjoyable enough to turn chores into something you actually look forward to. Oh, and if you have a spouse, they will love you for it. That’s worth something, too.Read More
Striking a better balance between life and work – as if the two were somehow opposing forces – is a popular topic these days. If you’re yearning for balance, there’s an important question you should ask yourself first.
Am I looking at this the right way?
Did you know that back in the stone age, the average human spent only four hours per day working – and by working, I mean carrying out activities necessary for their survival? Stop and think about that for a moment: just four hours per day. Does this appeal to you? If the answer is yes, you don’t have a problem with your work/life balance – you have a problem with your line of work.
The thing is, we all have to work to sustain ourselves – and since we don’t live in an ideal world, we cannot all be working with something we’re truly passionate about. This means that the vast majority of us are less than thrilled with getting up in the morning and readying ourselves for another workday.
If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to experience the opposite, you’ll quickly recognize my description of an incredibly energizing feeling of purpose and fulfillment which has a tendency to wreak havoc on the so-called work/life balance. Simply put, work isn’t “work” anymore – it’s fun. So much fun, in fact, that even the most mundane of tasks related to it can take on a certain sheen. If this is the case, you may very well favour passion before balance.
Be a pragmatic dreamer
If you don’t recognize the feeling of passion I’ve described above, I hereby challenge you to start looking for it. Perhaps you have a hobby or a deep interest in something which, when you turn your focus to it, whittles away time without you even noticing because you enjoy yourself too much. These are the foundations of passion which, if transformed into a career, holds the potential to alter your life beyond recognition.
Still, doing work you’re passionate about doesn’t necessarily remove the need for thinking about a work/life balance – and perhaps, for some reason, you are unable to pursue your dreams, at least for the time being. Perhaps you have other commitments in the “life” department which require your attention, and need to find time for these. Regardless of what applies to you, real life has a tendency to require pragmatism and compromises in order for you to achieve what you want to do.
At this point, things become a matter of prioritization – and that, in turn, demands a fair bit of quietude to reflect upon what’s important to you. I find it useful to work backwards; imagine what you would like your epitaph to say, and work your way down from there until you have a bulleted list of the things that matter to you. Then place them in your desired order of priority, and find out how much effort is required to achieve your goals.
After that, it’s just a matter of solving the practical matters related to the resources you have at your disposal, such as time and money to name just two. Revisit the list frequently until you feel completely comfortable with how you have prioritized, at which point it will be far easier to let go of things you may still want – but not as much as the other things on your list.
Life is unpredictable
There’s another reason to keep revisiting your list of priorities, too: life isn’t static. External and internal forces, along with the accumulation of knowledge and – hopefully – wisdom – will always excert a pull capable of transforming your perspective fundamentally in a surprisingly short span of time. Be mindful of this.Read More
“Knowledge is learning something every day. Wisdom is letting something go every day.” -Zen Proverb
Recognize this scenario? You’re in front of your laptop, cringing as you attempt to remember the location of that precious scrap of information which you need right now. Maybe it’s in there? Or over here? Or… not there. Brain, meet Inbox overload.
Have you ever though about how technology has a tendency to sneak up on you? It happens with the strangest of things. Smartphones that wake you up based upon monitoring your sleep patterns. Photocopiers with security measures that could scare the pants off your average cubicle worker. Japanese robo-toilets that appear to take their inspiration from car washes.
Quite frankly, it’s unnerving at times, and although it’s easy to argue that the advance of technology simplifies our lives, one can also find examples of the opposite hiding in plain sight. Such as where you came to learn about this article.
Chances are, it found its way to you either through e-mail, RSS or Twitter, which are the primary push channels through which content from this humble web site is delivered. Or, bless your heart, you actually have time to stop by every now and then without having to be reminded by an automated process.
There are how many of them again?
But those three options are just a few of the different ways – different Inboxes – through which communication can reach us. Yes, there’s e-mail, for which most people have at least one work and one personal account. The same goes for postal mail. A surprising number of people subscribe to more than one instant messaging service, and most everyone I know use RSS aggregators to quickly find the bits and pieces they’re interested in from the informational equivalent of the River Styx.
Ah, but there’s more. Social services, such as Twitter, Facebook and a whole host of others. Online banking services with confidential information that cannot be sent via e-mail. Phone calls. Voice mail. Project collaboration solutions at your workplace. Faxes (if you have to exchange signed documents quickly). SMS messages.
And last, but not least, someone could actually do something as horrific as walk up to you and start talking.
Inbox insanity is doing your head in
Availability is a good thing. Having to check a two-digit number of inboxes to see whether something is waiting for you is most certainly not.
Let’s try a quick thought experiment. Imagine someone nailing 15 post boxes around your house – all a different colour. Now let’s stuff 20 messages in each of them. Let’s say you actually read every single one of them (because, after all, there could be something important in there), and then resolve to get some work done. Suddenly, you realize that you need some information. From one of the inboxes. The gree… er, wait… the yellow one? No. The blue. That’s it, the blue. And what was that thing you had to remember again? It’s in there… somewhere.
This perfectly mirrors the reality most of us face – although perhaps slightly exaggerated. Some of us are good at emptying the inboxes at regular intervals, putting everything in neatly organized stacks which allow for rapid discovery of potential tasks and information that needs to be kept for future reference. Sounds boring, right?
Actually, it is boring. It can, in fact, be mind-numbing at times. Yet, it’s also critical to avoid wasting time and energy much in the same way a Hummer wastes gasoline.
Streamlining is key
The message is simple enough: if you have a large number of inboxes – which most everyone do without realizing it – without a simple a structured manner in which to handle them efficiently, they will consume precious time and energy as you attempt to remember what is where and just what to do about it. What you have to do is to get everything that comes in organized into a single queue, whether it’s something you need to do something about or reference material you might need at a later point in time.
To do this, I rely mostly on two principles: reducing my number of inboxes, and aggregating information into daily (or weekly) digests as well as heavy filtering whenever the services I utilize allow this – such as Gmail’s Priority Inbox, or Facebook’s highly customizable e-mail alerts. My general advice would be to poke around your options; you’ll be surprised at what you can actually achieve even without resorting to 3rd party services.
As for handling what actually is delivered into my inboxes, reference material are dealt with courtesy of Microsoft OneNote for all sorts of notes and research, combined with cloud-based storage which synchronizes neatly to allow for rapid access to files and materials which don’t belong in OneNote. For tasks, I use a lightweight application called MyLife Organized, which is an impressive tool for quickly capturing, organizing and prioritizing tasks as they show up on my radar – regardless of where they originated.
This way, everything is centralized, backed up and searchable in a manner of a few keystrokes, which lets me trust the system to hold everything I need instead of attempting to pointlessly convert my brain into a storage facility. In fact, I would not be able to manage even half of my current commitments if I did not rely on such a system.
By now, you’re likely wondering whether this would work for you. If you’re thinking it might not, that’s perfectly alright. Then again – what if it did?Read More
Do you own a smartphone? What do you with it? E-mail? Gaming? Light browsing? Regardless of your variety of vice, I’m willing to wager that it’s consuming the small moments of pause in your life – just like it used to be for me.
Confessions of a smartphone sinner
I own a smartphone, and so do most other people I know. I also have been using it too much, which is symptomatic of everybody else I know who owns a sufficiently capable one – meaning it holds a large screen, a snappy processor and a a high-speed Internet connection.
It’s astounding, really, how I’ve found myself reaching almost instinctively for it at every possible opportunity to work, inform or entertain myself as opposed to doing nothing – even though I absolutely, positively love doing nothing.
Yes, I am able to do more of what I like to do because of it. Yes, it is a technological marvel that I enjoy using simply because I marvel at its abilities. Yes, it is immensely practical to have with me if the need should truly arise for its capabilities.
I want to break free
There is, however, a distinct difference between keeping it with me because I might need it and using it such a way that my brain is always spinning at full throttle, thus depleting my mental resources as opposed to letting them recharge by way of the small pauses of life which surround us every day.
Thankfully, I currently find myself in the category of repenting sinner – not quite cured, yet having progressed substantially from the state of addiction that I suffered for a couple of months after upgrading to the latest and greatest.
Now, I mainly do two things with my phone: I take notes (fervently, as my brain is most decidedly a poor excuse for a storage facility), and use it to look up reference information from a well-kept, well-synchronized OneNote repository.
Despite my severe inclination towards all things technology (I used to make a living reviewing consumer electronics), I’ve decided to reach a point where I just leave the damn thing alone unless I need it.
You should try it, too. After all, what harm could it do?Read More