Is anyone else plagued with the constant feeling that whatever activity you’re doing isn’t the one you should be doing?
As one who can be obsessed with productivity and efficiency, I often find myself attacking myself about my choices on how I spend my time.
Why am I exercising twice today when I haven’t got enough paid work done?
Why am I working so hard on my business when I should be taking care of my health?
This type of self-doubt saps the fun out of life, and it’s the opposite of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is absorption of the moment. Mindfulness is taking in all that the senses have to offer while we show up for the exact experience we are having.
One of the antidotes I personally use to counter my anxiety that I’m doing the wrong thing is appreciation for my priorities.
What this means is not listening to societal beliefs about how I should spend my time but instead listening to my own true beliefs about what’s important in my life.
By connecting in with my priorities about what I think is important, I’m able to counter the inevitable self-doubt that arises in my mind and exchange it for self-approval. I can pat myself on the back for making a choice that feels right in terms of my own values, and then I can turn my attention back to the task at hand and let the self-doubt dissolve.
Here are nine activities that I think are never a waste of time:
- Preparing a healthy meal.
This might be a meal for one or a meal we are going to share with our family and friends. Regardless, taking the time to prepare food with whole ingredients, especially local and organic ones, is never a waste of time. Yes, it might take a little longer then opening a package, but our bodies and souls benefit so much from being fed proper nutrients. If preparing healthy meals is a priority, then we need to make time management choices that reflect this so that we can be home at appropriate times in the day and week to have adequate time for this essential life task.
2. Spending time with people we love.
Somehow all four of the people who live in my home were at home today, which is becoming rarer as the kids get older. In the afternoon, we stopped all of our activities and went for an afternoon walk. Maybe we made less money because we got less paid work done today, but our children will only be young once, and in our household we have always made spending time with our children a priority over making money. This isn’t an easy decision, as financial stress is a reality for us, as it is for most people, but we do it anyway. Maybe the people you love are animals, so that is a priority for you, or your family is far away—so you schedule weekly Skype sessions. There are some things that just can’t be done later.
3. Creative endeavors
We’re never all going to become famous and make a living from our ‘art’. But why do we have to? Spending time creating inspires us, invigorates us and connects us to people throughout time. Somehow we have come to believe that if our art isn’t one day going to earn us money or fame, then it is a waste of time. When I’m feeling stuck, I’ll write a song or paint a picture just because it feels good.
4. Moving our bodies
The computer has made it so easy to just sit down and stay there—but remember when we were kids and we just moved? I would spend all day doing cartwheels in the front yard or skateboarding on the sidewalk with the neighborhood kids. We loved to move. I am always so inspired by dogs who just love to go for a walk. I mean, they love it! For some of us, moving our bodies has become a chore. Something we procrastinate on. But moving our bodies is essential to our health. The idea that we don’t have time to move our bodies because there are things we ‘have’ to do that involve sitting at screens is one of the saddest things that has happened to the human race. Let’s all promise ourselves we will spend time being physically active every day.
I’m often late because someone just needed to talk. I will spend an extra hour with a store clerk because they need to get something off their chest. People whose names I never learn often tell me all about their daughter, husband or wife. They tell me what they are worried about and where they are stuck. And I listen. And I tell them they are doing a good job. I encourage unconditional love and let them vent for as long as they need (or for as long as I can justify without being insanely tardy). And this is something I never regret. We all need to listen and we all need to be listened to.
Sometimes my loved ones get frustrated that I volunteer so much of my time. But I love volunteering. I love just showing up and offering all I have to offer. Sometimes this is planning at a board meeting or more often lately, it’s offering childcare, food prep, dish washing or energy healing services. If we don’t want money to be the driving force in society, then we need to look at our own views of always needing to be paid money for our time. Our communities thrive off volunteerism. This is how we come together and support what needs to be done in our own neighborhoods. Volunteerism is how we bring vitality to the place we live.
7. Time in nature
This is another sad thing about present human existence: We think we don’t have time to get out into nature. Last month I went walking everyday in the woods, and it was noticeable how centered and in-tune with myself I felt. Last week I decided I didn’t have time for my nature walks and skipped them. At the end of the week, I found myself wondering why I was so low energy and unenthusiastic about my life. When I evaluated what had changed, I realized I had decided that the thing that makes me feel alive (being in nature) was expendable. I had decided that working on my business and ‘getting stuff done’ was more important than my daily walks. And I paid the price in how I felt.
8. Appreciating ourselves
We have no problem spending time analyzing where we have screwed up and how we ‘should’ do better next time—but how about taking some time to notice where we are succeeding? All of us are successful everyday. We are being kind, helping out, learning, growing, but we almost never take the time to just say to ourselves, “Hey, good job on that.” Obviously, this doesn’t need to be a time consuming exercise, but it is, nonetheless, a very good use of time.
On the surface, meditating can seem like such a selfish activity. Sitting alone, totally still, eyes closed, doing nothing. But when we meditate, we change the way we react to stimuli. All types of thoughts and feelings arise during meditation and we don’t react. We just sit and notice all that arises in a very neutral manner and return our attention to whatever point of awareness we are working with, perhaps the breath or the body. This act trains us for our whole life. Want to be calmer when sh*t hits the fan in our everyday lives? The best way to do this is to meditate. It can seem like we don’t have time to meditate, but if we have time to go on Facebook, we have time to meditate. We just need to realize that it is a great use of time.
How we use our time is a personal decision. We all need to look at our lives, and I mean really look, and decide what is essential and decide which activities need to stay a part of our daily practice of health and generosity. And then we need to use the skills we learn in meditation to stop questioning and evaluating these choices and instead let ourselves be steeped in appreciation for the great priorities we have chosen.
Author: Ruth Lera
Editor: Caroline Beaton
Image: Laura Fields/Flickr