To begin my work, I caught up on posting and reading self-help, coaching, career, and psychology postings on Twitter, and I added a posting or two myself. I scheduled and rescheduled a few clients, and worked on other assorted tasks. Then in the afternoon, I did some writing for a book I'm working on, which is about resisting bad habits and forming new, healthier ones; as part of that task, I moved rapidly between four previously written chapters to tune them up, and I wrote a few new sections.
There was lots of bopping around, back and forth, between different tasks and writings, different ideas and goals. It was a typical multitasking free for all.
By mid-afternoon, I felt my shoulders tightening and my eyes glazing over.
So, I stepped away from the computer, went to the bathroom, came back out and put the kettle on for another cup of tea, and then I stepped outside. Once on my back porch, I recited a line from the meditation exercises I do while at the gym: I am, which is my own powerful reminder that it's possible for me not to concern myself with anything at all except for being in his body of mine and existing in the world at this present moment.
I then took a deep breath and paid attention to all the sensations—nose, throat, chest, stomach—that go along with it. I focused on the grass in my yard, the extraordinarily tall sunflowers in my neighbor's yard, the red brick of the house next to ours. I stretched, felt the sun on my skin, moved into the yard, and continued to breath deeply, keeping my mind clear of any thoughts except for what my five senses were perceiving.
When you pay attention deeply, just breathing can feel so darn good!
When I heard the kettle whistle, I went back inside the house. I made a cup of tea, and then I continued to work for a few more hours.
The total amount of time off I took from my work was close to 1 minute. However, it was so pleasurable, it felt much longer.
* * *
We live in a busy world.
Sometimes I get the feeling that most self-help approaches want us to create mini-worlds for ourselves that aren't as busy. To a certain extent, I can understand that. When possible, I think that's a great approach. Certainly, it can be effective to prune our lives of activities and objects that are not necessary, irritating, or otherwise burdensome.
However, using the example I've just presented in this post, I learned a lot from bopping around Twitter and various blogs, reading and thinking and posting very rapidly. I wouldn't want to cut that out of my life completely.
Instead of drastically reducing what you do, take more mini-breaks. I find this method to work very well when it's not practical to take more prolonged time off, such as a weekend, a "mental health day," or a vacation.
A handful of times a day, remove yourself from the hectic environment—which is a great emotional reminder that the tasks aren't as vital as they feel right at that moment and that you can put them down briefly—and do a mindfulness exercise. Then, once you feel more clear-headed and refreshed, jump back into the fray.