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Living an ‘unhurried life’

During these times of isolation, most of us are reflecting and asking what are some key learnings and changes we can make personally? In this edition, Nella reflects on this state of being ‘unhurried’ and how it has allowed her to be more focused on one task at a time.

Isolation has meant a different life, it’s less hectic, nowhere to be and no one to see. In turn we have all gained more time and from discussions I have had, many have used this time, to spring clean, attend to home maintenance, to do more cooking, reading and exercise, to play games, do puzzles and engage in more family time. Amongst all the uncertainty, I feel there is a sense of enjoyment and satisfaction in these activities, they are conducted more consciously and in an unhurried manner, one at a time.

I referred back to a book I read earlier this year ‘Ikigai’, by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles. Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means a reason for being – a direction or purpose in life, that which makes one’s life worthwhile. It also seems to be one way of explaining the longevity of the Japanese, especially on the island of Okinawa, where there are 24.55 people over the age of 100 for every 100,000 inhabitants, far more than the global average.

A total of 100 interviews were conducted asking the eldest members of the community about their ikigai and secrets to longevity. There were a number of statements, about diet, state of mind, mindfulness, community participation etc.  One of the statements that resonates with me in current times is “Live an unhurried life. You live much longer if you’re not in a hurry.” The interviewee was not meaning we do nothing. On the contrary, “do many different things every day, stay busy, but do one thing at a time, without getting overwhelmed.” As I write this, I think of parents who are home schooling and how this is a useful philosophy, i.e. do one thing at a time, to keep sane!

Concentrating on one thing at a time is one of the greatest challenges in today’s modern world of technology and many distractions. Many of us combine tasks and think we will save time, but scientific evidence shows this is not the case. We switch between tasks, causing us to feel overwhelmed and not completing anything very well. Science shows if we continually ask our brains to alternate between tasks, we waste time, make mistakes and remember less of what we have done. Below is a table from the book that sums it up nicely:

Concentrating on a Single Task Multitasking
>You achieve flow >Flow is impossible
>Increases productivity >Decreases productivity
>Increases power of retention >Makes it harder to remember things
>Less likely to make mistakes >Increases likelihood of mistakes
>We feel calm and in control of the task >We feel stressed, overwhelmed, a loss of control.
>Increases creativity >Reduces creativity
>We are more considerate of those around us >We are not engaged or in the moment

 

To train our brains to focus on a single task, below are some suggestions offered by the authors:

  1. No screen time in the first hour of waking and in the hour before bed
  2. When starting a task, turn off the phone. If this feels extreme, then enable ‘do not disturb’
  3. Designate a day a week as a day of ‘technological fasting’
  4. Go to a café with no WIFI. As I write this, I think is this even possible? All cafes have WIFI. Then again maybe not in Okinawa
  5. Define times in your day, where you manage email
  6. Use a timer and work on a task, as long as it is running. They suggest 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of rest. You can also try 50 minutes and 10 minutes respectively. Find a pace that works for you and commit to it
  7. Start your workday with a ritual you enjoy and end it with a reward
  8. Train your mind to return to the present when you find you are distracted. Practice mindfulness, a form of meditation, go for a walk, whatever will get you centred again. Something I have found useful during isolation is having a puzzle laid out. When I need a break from work, I spend about 20 mins working on it and am better focused when I resume the work task
  9. Work in a space you will not get easily distracted
  10. Divide each activity into groups of related tasks. For example: draft a report in the morning, review and edit in the afternoon
  11. Bundle routine tasks and do them all at once

Up until point 5, my anxiety level has increased, as I’m thinking this is all a bit ambitious and then I start to see possibility. Reality is, I probably need to implement points 1 to 5 if I’m really going to make a change and cultivate good habits.

For more info on Multi-Tasking, check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hEPCTFuuqgY

Keep safe and well, we look forward to seeing you when we can!

References

Ikigai – The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life (2017) Hector Garcia & Francesc Miralles

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