“In the future, the great division will be between those who have trained themselves to handle these complexities and those who are overwhelmed by them — those who can acquire skills and discipline their minds and those who are irrevocably distracted by all the media around them and can never focus enough to learn.” Robert Greene
To practice everyday mastery is one of my chief aims at the beginning of each new day. I enjoy being mindful, single tasking, and maintaining awareness in the present moment. However, maintaining focus when navigating the inevitable clutter of daily life is the real challenge. In completing my first year of university as an under graduate student, I became well acquainted with this challenge in a dance between mindfulness and the multiverse of tasks assigned from each lecturer. The stress of university life can build rapidly if left unchecked, and I witnessed many succumb to the great allure of procrastination and poor time management (myself included). It has been the greatest opportunity and challenge to remain present, whilst exercising the discipline required to remain on top of my studies and simultaneously achieve a uni-work-life balance.
Stressed and Challenged
During my second semester this year, there was a point where I was juggling 2 jobs, a barrage of assignments, and a project called “Sustainable House Day” which I was coordinating for the Cairns Council. This was a major challenge for my everyday mastery practice. However, here are some of the tips/strategies that I used during this time to remain calm, present and proactive.
- Daily goal reset – I asked myself each day and at the end of each week, “what is the next most important task to work on today”? This keeps you focused on what are the most important things each and every day.
- Time limits – I set myself time limits for tasks each day, usually between 8am and 5pm. This stopped me from doing work after hours, as its important to protect time for yourself and partner/family. (I very rarely did paperwork on the weekends)
- No internet at home – This kind of feeds into the time limit tip, but I made a point to not have internet at home, as it automatically protects me from answering emails or doing any extra online work at home. It forces me to make the most of my time at uni as I know I can’t do any work once I leave.
- Single Tasking – This is really important. Multi-tasking is proven to reduce your competency with each additional task you add, also reducing efficacy. Completing your daily goals one at a time, from the most important to the least important, is critical in remaining focused, efficient, calm and mindful.
- Eat, Sleep, Exercise – While my meditation practice did suffer throughout this hectic period, I always maintained an exercise regime, ate a clean and healthy diet, and had a proper 8 hours sleep each night. These are such easy things to accomplish and can quite easily be understated and overlooked. However, I guarantee that if you can master these simple tasks you will be well on your way to remaining present and focused throughout each day. (note: waking up early is a great way to ease into the day and create space to plan and gain clarity about the day to come)
- Stop checking social media!! This is a major productivity killer, full stop. I usually reward myself will a small dose of social media after I have completed my tasks for the day.
Of course, having the discipline to execute these types of tasks everyday is the hard part, but it is where practice kicks in. Everyday mastery is a daily practice that takes form in many different ways, but it is first and foremost a practice in creating healthy habits. From this point of view, challenging times are always a great opportunity to practice single tasking, mindfulness and self-care. The more you practice, the more disciplined you become, and the easier it is to remain present in stressful times. However, when all else fails, the most important tip of all is to take action. Do something that will relieve some of the stress you are feeling, and you are guaranteed to feel better for it.
How do you deal with stressful times in your life? Do you have any other strategies that help keep you calm and focused?