People come to the beach to take it easy; in other words, to stop rushing so much.
Whether you travel here for vacation, a weekend retreat, or to establish a permanent home, it’s partly the result of a desire to take things slower.
But why does life have to be such a rush in the first place?
When you are rushing, it feels like you are effectively ‘multi-tasking’ and accomplishing something good. But, after the dust settles, have you noticed that you often forgot things, or made mistakes and had to do things over?
Of course, people rush because they want to be competent, efficient and get as much done as possible. Yet, rushing often accomplishes just the opposite. There is the obvious risk of getting fewer things done, but, if you refuse to rush, you’ll get the things you do, done better.
For example, think of drivers who weave through traffic because they’ve got to be in front of you, no matter what. Have you ever noticed that, sooner or later, they end up sitting right beside you at the same red light? They’re ‘getting nowhere fast;’ the perfect metaphor when it comes to rushing.
Sometimes people feel they have no choice but to rush. If this is really true, then something else must be wrong. Maybe you’re trying to do too much. Maybe you’re always trying to help others, but not caring for yourself first. This doesn’t do anybody any favors (assuming you even have an obligation to these people in the first place!).
If someone is expecting you to do more than you can possibly do in a certain time period, you have to tell them so. They might be mad or disappointed, but how mad will they be when you forget things or make mistakes? Isn’t it better to warn them?
In the end, there are more reasons not to rush, than to rush. Calling it ‘multi-tasking’ is nothing more than a rationalization. It certainly doesn’t make you more competent, and often, it’s a way to pretend that you’re able to do more than you really can do. As a form of self-delusion and denial, I suggest crossing it off the list of life techniques.
OK, so if you’ve read this far, maybe you’re thinking about slowing down a little. Here are six little exercises to help you get started:
Make a list of what you want to do today. Not only will it organize you, but it will also focus your attention. Make sure the list is realistic. If it isn’t, you’re going to rush. Spend no more than about 15 minutes on the list; this isn’t rocket science.
Prioritize the list. Put a star next to the things that you absolutely must do. Then, allow yourself to push the non-starred items later, or until tomorrow, if the priority items take longer than expected.
Take it one item at a time. When you’re checking off the things on your list—running an errand for the kids, going to the grocery store, making an appointment, whatever—focus only on that activity. If your mind starts to wander to the next item, you’ll get anxious. Anxiety leads to rushing. A clear focus on what you’re doing now will keep you calm. This is what you want. Remind yourself that thinking ahead doesn’t speed things up. All it does is distract you and increase anxiety, and anxiety makes you less efficient.
Put yourself first. If you don’t care for yourself, you’re not going to be realistic about others. You’re going to make promises and commitments to your family, friends, and co-workers that you can’t possibly keep. What good are broken promises to yourself or others?
Learn to say no. This will be the most difficult. But, there are a million ways to say ‘no’ nicely. Just one example: ‘I’d love to do that for you, but I’m so sorry. I have another commitment.’ Don’t avoid the issue. Face it directly. Say what you mean. Say it like you mean it, and know that it’s OK to say and mean ‘no.’ This will miraculously unclutter your life, add a touch of sincerity, and, best of all, you’ll do a better job for those to whom you choose to commit yourself.
Live in the moment. Remember, you’re at the beach! Stop and look at the ocean. Or the unusual birds. Or the beautiful bay. Why do you want to rush through all this? Make life a little bit of vacation all the time. Work will seem less like work, and hurrying won’t seem so important. Life’s too short to dash through it.