How to be “in the moment” in a “to-do list” world
In January I made a New Year’s resolution to be more “in the moment.” My goal is to appreciate and focus on the present and spend less time dwelling on the past or future events that I can’t control. Since we’re almost halfway through 2015 I thought it would be a good time to step back and evaluate my progress.
In general, I would say I’m doing a pretty good job sticking to this resolution. Some days are better than others and it is definitely an ongoing challenge, but I’ve been able to employ a few daily practices that help me follow through on my goal.
One thing I try to do every day is prioritize my “to-do list.” I’m one of those types who keep a written list. It’s usually pretty varied and almost always long. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when I think about everything I have written down. So, I don’t. Instead, I look for items that must be completed immediately. If something has a hard deadline or if I have a pre-arranged appointment or meeting I will make it my focus in that moment. There aren’t usually too many of these tasks in any given day so once they are completed I can move on to ones with softer deadlines. If I get through those, there are always more general tasks on my list. These types of tasks have a deadline of “I would love to get this done someday.”
To further encourage myself to stay in the moment I’ve been working on being flexible. I have kids. Not only are kids always in the moment, they are good at forcing us, as parents and caregivers, into their moment. When my toddler decides he’s hungry it means he’s hungry now, not in an hour from now when I planned to make lunch. I have to adapt accordingly. I know that plans can change in an instant and I have to be willing to temporarily set aside my carefully prioritized task list to deal with the situation at hand.
At the end of the day I usually do spend just a few minutes mentally reviewing the day’s accomplishments. I admit that I can be my own worst critic and feeling like I haven’t gotten through as much as I should can lead to a lot of self-doubt. So, on those days when I don’t feel as productive as I want to be, I try hard to maintain a realistic perspective and to be forgiving. Sometimes I need to remind myself that the world will not end just because I didn’t get through every email in my inbox or if there are still three loads of laundry to be folded. It just gives me somewhere to start tomorrow.