Speaking personally, I often wish I had 48 hours a day to do all things I would like to do each day! Yet the main reason we fail to be as productive as we would like is not because of lack of time, but rather because of misuse of energies. Years of ‘practice’ has us spending countless amounts of energy every day doing things and getting into situations that leave us no closer to reaching our life goals. But here are some tips on how to reclaim some of that energy for things that you REALLY want:
1. Cut down on useless thinking
If we spent a day looking at the nature of our thoughts – mainly worrying about the future or agonizing about the past, often negative against others but more often yourself – it’s not surprising that at the end of the day we feel as if we have just fought our way through a battlefield! At the beginning we get a kind of perverse joy out of negative thinking, but this two-edged sword quickly turns on us and leaves us in a ‘me-against-the-world’ situation, totally devoid of hope and inspiration. The trick is to resist the initial thrill you get from negative thoughts, by remembering how damaging they are. It has been mentioned many times on this blog, but it always bears repeating how a practice of meditation can really help you in this regard, by training you to first still your mind, and then to allow in only the thoughts you want to have.
2. Don’t get involved in situations you can’t handle
Often we overestimate our own emotional strength, and we are more than ready to give free advice to people in difficult situations. And so we often get into difficult situations where the talk goes around and around in unhelpful circles and we end up feeling quite depressed and drained ourselves at the end of the conversation. You have to know your own inner strength and whether you can genuinely be of service to someone. If you can’t, you can instead focus on just being a source of love and support for them in their difficult time (often this turns out to be much more powerful than anything you could say anyway), and perhaps even point them in the way of other people who can help.
3. Take a daily nap
We are more likely to slip into energy sapping practices as the day wears on, and we become more exposed to the stresses and strains of life. A half hour nap here can be ideal for breaking the day into 2 parts, and giving you a new lease of life as you head into ‘phase 2’ with a new purpose and a new vitality. The least productive time of the day is immediately after lunch, as the digestion process makes us begin to feel a little drowsy, so this is the ideal time to lay down the head for a few minutes. It can be for as little as fifteen or twenty minute – you will soon find that your mind is very easily fooled, as it wakes up fully refreshed and thinking it has been asleep for hours.
4. A change is as good as a rest (even better in fact)
Often persisting doggedly on the same task can really drain us, especially if it’s going nowhere. Other times we wear ourselves out by anticipating the mountain of things we have to do, and blowing it up in our minds until it gets too big to handle. Our mental disposition has a huge bearing on our energy levels, and if our mind is getting discouraged from being stuck at the same place, than this will really get us down. Don’t be afraid of taking a break and switching projects to one that you can actually make some headway with. When you come back to your original project, you will be surprised how time spent away from the project has given you a new and larger perspective. And when doing a task, try to keep your focus on that task and that task only, rather than the many tasks that still have to follow on after it. By getting joy out of the process rather than the finishing, you can transform many of your daily tasks from energy draining actions to energy giving ones!
5. Avoid cycles of conflict
In our work life and personal life we invariably come into contact with the same people every day, and over time, we develop a pattern of interacting with them that we naturally just slip into. Of course these patterns also include their fair share of tension and conflict – how often have we gotten ourselves into an argument or some other stressful situation, solely out of force of habit? The important thing here is to watch out for the triggers that start the whole thing off – others negative actions and your own equally negative reaction to them. It can be a very difficult practice learning not to respond in the same old ways, and invariably there will be stumbles along the way, but you will soon notice a difference for the better in your daily environment, and this will inspire you even further.
Photo: Sri Chinmoy Centre Galleries. That’s actually my younger brother suspended in mid-air 🙂