Slow down! You’re Wasting Too Much Time

Being busy gives us — and others — the impression that we’re getting things done. We are working hard. We are being productive. But as we all know, in our work lives, this is sometimes an illusion. And in our personal lives, this is often an illusion.

Just because we are busy doesn’t mean we are productive. This is especially true if and when we start to feel rushed. When we are hurried, we don’t take the time for reflection, and we lose perspective. We overlook more efficient ways of doing things. We overlook important details. We neglect to ask important questions.

Just press “pause”

Often, the most helpful thing to do is to stop what we’re doing, and take a few deep breaths. Even better, step out of our home or office, and take a brief walk. Start asking questions like,

What is really important here?

What do I have the ability to do / control about this?

What are the things beyond my control?

Often I will say a prayer like: “Holy Spirit, what do I need to know right now?” When I take a pause, step back from a situation, and ask this question, it’s amazing how often a new clarity emerges.

And with this clarity almost always comes: less reacting, less manic doing, and less seeking to control the uncontrollable. The focus shifts from the quantity of action to the quality of action.

Listen to this extended quote from Thomas Merton:

“Our being is not to be enriched merely by activity and experience as such. Everything depends on the quality of our acts and our experiences. A multitude of badly performed actions and of experiences only half lived exhausts and depletes our being. …
When our activity is habitually disordered, our malformed conscience can think of nothing better to tell us than to multiply the quantity of our acts, without perfecting their quality. And so we go from bad to worse, exhausting ourselves, empty our whole life of all content, and fall into despair. There are times, then, when in order to keep ourselves in existence at all we simply have to sit back for a while and do nothing. And for a man who has let himself be drawn completely out of himself by his activity, nothing is more difficult than to sit still and rest, doing nothing at all. The very act of resting is the hardest and most courageous act he can perform; and often it is quite beyond his power.” — Thomas Merton.