The long-awaited fall season is upon us! Locals (and smart vacationers) know that this is the time to enjoy everything we came here to enjoy. Whether you are a resident or just visiting, you probably came here because of a desire to take things slower. But sadly, there’s not a lot of evidence of that in stores, offices or on the road.
When you’re in a hurry, you might feel like you’re multitasking and accomplishing something good. But, admit it: After the dust settles, you probably forgot things and made mistakes. We rush because we want to be efficient and get as much done as possible. But rushing often accomplishes just the opposite.
Coastal Highway in the summertime is a prime example. Drivers weave through traffic because they’ve got to get in front of you no matter what. And it never fails: Sooner or later, they end up sitting right beside you at a red light. They’re getting nowhere fast; the perfect metaphor for “multitasking” and being in a hurry.
If you feel you have no choice but to rush, then something else is probably wrong. Maybe you’re trying to do too much. Maybe you’re trying to help others but not caring for yourself first. This certainly doesn’t do anybody any favors (assuming you have any obligation to these people in the first place). If someone is expecting you to do more than you can do, tell them so. They might be disappointed, but how disappointed will they be when you fail to do what you promised?
There are better reasons not to rush than to rush. Calling it multitasking is nothing more than a silly rationalization. It certainly doesn’t make you more competent, and it usually ends up as a way to pretend that you’re able to do more than you really can do. It’s self-delusion, and I respectfully suggest crossing it off your list of life techniques.
You’ve stuck with me this far, so maybe you’re thinking about slowing down a little. Here are six easy exercises to help you get started:
- Make a realistic list of what you want to do. Not only will it organize you, but it will also help focus your attention. If it’s not realistic, you’ll end up rushing.
- Prioritize your 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.
- Perform your listed tasks one at a time. When you’re checking things off, e.g., running an errand, going to the grocery store or whatever, focus only on that activity. If your mind starts to wander to the next item, you’ll get anxious, and anxiety leads to rushing. Remind yourself that thinking ahead doesn’t speed things up. All it does is distract you from the present, slow you down, and increase your anxiety.
- Put yourself first. If you don’t care for yourself, you’re not going to be realistic about others. Don’t make commitments you can’t keep. What good are broken promises? You’ll think you’re being nice, and everyone will know you’re a flake.
- On a similar note, learn to say “No.” This will be difficult! But there are lots of ways to say it nicely: “I’d love to do that for you, but I’m so sorry. I have another commitment.” Face the issue directly, and know that it’s OK to say – and mean – “No.” This will miraculously unclutter your life and add a touch of sincerity. Best of all, you’ll do a better job for those to whom you actually choose to commit yourself.
- Live in the moment. Even if you work here, stop for a minute and look at the ocean. Or the unusual birds. Or the sunset over the bay. Make life a little bit of a vacation every day. Work will seem less like work, and hurrying won’t seem so important. Life’s too short already. Why dash through it?
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