Two weeks back on the job. The temptation to fall into old ways is enormous. I find myself waking at night thinking. I find myself in work, thinking about all I have to do, all the tiny disparate tasks that arise from running multiple projects at the same time.
But so far I’ve managed to pull back from the edge of full scale immersion in frenzied thinking, plotting, planning. When it comes to thinking, to the activity of the mind, I’ve discovered I can do serial monogamy. I can confine myself to thinking about one thing at a time and dismiss from my mind thoughts that don’t relate to the task in hand right now. My trip to India has shown me how.
It seems my western mind’s version of the eternal present is based on discipline–tell thoughts to go away, even if for only a few minutes. Finish one task, or part of a task, before moving to the next. Tell people to wait until the task in hand is completed.
This is a basic and well-known key to stress management. Perhaps the reason it doesn’t work for so many people is because the buzz that comes with having an infinite number of things to do is addictive. And being over-worked and impossibly busy seems to be part of the corporate culture.
Like Scarlett O’Hara, I’ve learned to think about things tomorrow. But underpinning this strategy is a recognition that the real difficulty lies not having too much to do, but in worrying about not getting everything done. And worrying is a misguided attempt to control the future.
Will this last? I don’t know.
How do we reach stillness in the middle of a western life? How do we live in the moment when 40 hours a week we are focused on the future? Please leave your ideas in a comment.