Ralph Waldo Emerson
To me one of the most interesting things about improving life and growing is to make the regular day even better. Reaching your goals, having really special or awesome days and learning to handle bad times and slumps are of course important but many days in life are spent in-between that.
And one of the most common problems today, maybe more than ever, is that the regular day gets dragged down from maybe a good morning into a day of stress, overwhelm and being busy but barely moving forward.
So today as I sat down to write I wanted to write about some of the best things in this area that I have learned in past few years. Things I do today, a regular Wednesday, that I almost never used to do half a decade ago to live a more relaxing and focused life.
The short to-do list.
I used to seldom get much done in a week when I was in college. Then I used somewhat overloaded to-do lists for a while. That landed me in too much stress and I procrastinated away many days. Today I aim at getting two or three of the most important things done each day.
One thing at a time.
I find that if I try to multi-task I usually get stressed and unfocused. So I try to single-task pretty much everything I do during a day as best I can.
Avoid the gray zone.
What is the gray zone? That is when you are for example bringing your work home or when you bring your stress from home to work. Sometimes this might be unavoidable but making a habit of either of these things can really ramp up the stress and make things even worse.
I avoid the gray zone as best I can by having some pretty firm rules on when I am at work or when I am not working. I work from home so rules like these are essential for me. So I:
- Do no work after 7 o clock in the evenings.
- Do not do work on weekends.
- Take breaks pretty much every hour.
Having these firm rules helps me to not get lost in the gray zone, to stay in the present moment and to not create stress about work when I am not working.
Be where you are.
This is related to the last pointer. When you work then work. When you are with a friend, family member or partner fully be with them (not with someone else or at work in your mind).
Being fully where you are and mindfully focusing on what you are doing right here right now is one of best things I have ever learned.
Just being where you are fully and being fully focused on that moment brings out so much detail and joy and inner peace. It makes the moments of life more enjoyable.
Single-tasking is one way to tap into being mindful for me. Another tip I often use is to focus fully on just what is in front of me and around me right now for a few minutes. I take in the world around me with all my senses just for a short while to connect with the present moment and to get out of my own head (by that I mean to not keep thinking about some past or future scenario). And I sometimes take a couple of dozen belly breaths and focus on just my breathing to reconnect with the now.
Shape the environment.
I have found that I do my best work best if I work in a cone of silence. That means that I shut of the cell phone, the instant messenger, I sit by myself and I very rarely go online. Try that or a variation of it that fits you and your situation and see if that helps you to reduce your daily stress.
I am pretty punctual. Not really because I am a stickler for these things. But because I want to avoid the stressful traveling. I want to spend my traveling time relaxing. So I make sure that I give myself time to prepare if I am going out to eat or to a party. I make sure that I am maybe 5 or 10 minutes early to a meeting. It’s a very simple thing to reduce stress in your mind and body.
If it doesn’t get done then that’s OK.
I’d like to get my two or three most important things from my to-do list done each day. But life is life. And sometimes it interferes. Such is reality.
And then someone might get annoyed or angry. But the skies won’t fall and in the long run it won’t matter much at all. So don’t beat yourself up and create a lot of stress within. Life is too short for such things.
There is a day tomorrow too and you can get that one thing done then instead.
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what about we indian stress management. In our private sector if we are leaving on time then we’ll not get a good appraisal or can say will not consider for promotion, here we work from 9 to late.
how we indian can be stress free.
Great tips for a stress free life. My all time favorite is to take one thing at a time. Not try and do too much and be overwhelmed but to focus focus focus!
Yes being fully emotionally and physically in the moment helps me and my mood too ! It makes me feel a lot better .
OMG I need this! I’ve been stressed out for almost 2 months now. :(
Hi Henrik, I’ve only just found your blog and love every bit of advice you give out on your blog! I’m loving it so far and you’ve just earned a new fan!
Back to this article, If you look at all the points, it’s clear that the true secret to becoming less stressed in life is to ‘focus.’ Nearly every point hits on this idea and I couldn’t agree more that learning to narrow your focus and to focus on the important things you most value in life will reduce stress massively.
Great article Henrik! The part about being where you are really resonated with me. Being present and mindful not only enriches our lives and makes each moment one that can be more fulfilling, it truly enriches the lives of the people we come in contact with. They notice something different and appreciate being listened to and having someone’s undivided and generous attention (for instance: instead of speaking with someone who’s checking their iphone and texting every minute or two).
I like your points about shaping the environment and showing up early as well – allowing us to be relaxed, focused, mindful and at peace.
Thanks for the simple but useful practical reminders. Simple things like being early and taking it one step at a time can go a long way to prevent stress from building up later down the road. A short to-do list which to me is simply, doing the important things first, is also a great tip to keep in mind. All in all, if you want to have less stress in life, start early, do the right things, one at a time. :)