Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Useful (IMHO) post on another blog

Before I get into the promised useful post, let me preface it by saying that my first somewhat judgmental reaction to this article was that it is too "101" for me. Meaning, I regularly meditate, I've been on several silent retreats, I do a lot of non-fiction "spiritual" reading, etc., etc.

But then I kind of woke up from my self-righteous hazy dream-state, and realized that I have a serious tendency to overdo things. Good things, bad things, doesn't matter. And I've noticed that, when I'm able to avoid getting sucked into that whirlpool of an all or nothing mentality, I'm often able to achieve permanent and positive movement in my life experience. You know, baby steps. Feel free to be thinking, "Well, duh Ruth!"

Let me say that I found the last suggestion, "Read Fiction Before Bed" to not be useful for me personally. I used to be a voracious fiction reader (now, I've morphed into more of a non-fiction reader), and my issue with this suggestion is that either:

1) Said fiction is too stimulating, interesting, and I want to keep reading, and do so until way past the time I should be sleeping, kind of gummy-eyed and obsessive, OR...

2) I've either read the book a zillion times (thus it's not too engaging) or it's just boring, in which case, why am I reading it?

But this tip might work for the less obsessive folks out there with a more moderate nature.

And the other 5 tips were just peachy.

So, without further ado, here is a link to the article in its original habitat: Six Ways to Find Quiet During a Busy Day

And my properly credited and hopefully fully legal recopy below:

Six Ways to Find Quiet During a Busy Day, author Ali Hale

Do your days feel like a manic dash from start to end? Does it seem like, however hard you work, there’s always more to do? For many of us, that’s just how life seems to go. When we do take a break from the busyness, we start surfing the internet, watching television, listening to audio books or flicking through a magazine. We’re afraid that if we slow down, we’ll crash.

Recently, I went on a retreat for a weekend: I stayed with a Catholic community here in the English countryside, and spent most of two days in silence. It was an amazing opportunity to clear some space in the middle of a busy few weeks – and I came back feeling much less stressed, and much happier.

For most of us, though (me included!) it’s very difficult to find time to take a whole weekend, or even a whole day, out of our busy schedules. Plus, we can’t just save up our need for quiet and rest for one big session – we need little pockets of calm in each day.

Here are some things to try, throughout your day:

1. Eat Breakfast – Without Doing Anything Else at the Same Time
You’ve heard enough times that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. It’s not just a time for physical nourishment, though; you can use breakfast as a chance for a period of stillness and quiet, to put you in a good frame of mind for the day ahead.

If you typically eat breakfast while reading your email, flicking through a magazine, opening the mail or doing your homework, then try – for just three days – doing nothing except eating at breakfast time. You’ll be amazed how much more you appreciate and taste your food, and how much more relaxed you’ll feel.

(You might want to set your alarm ten minutes earlier, so that you can still fit in the rest of your morning routine.)

2. Take Two Minutes to Plan Your Morning
What’s the first thing you do when you start work for the day? I’d hazard a guess that you switch on your computer – perhaps even before you’ve taken off your jacket, or grabbed a coffee.

This week, when you sit down at your desk each day, take just two minutes to plan your morning. Grab a post-it note. Jot down three things that you want to get done before lunch. Ideally, pick tasks which involve creative energy, or ones which you’ve been putting off for a while.

Now put that post-it note somewhere prominent, like on your monitor, switch your computer on and get to work. Focus on getting those three things done.

3. Have a Five Minute Break at Lunch
Many of us grab lunch on the run, often eating at our desk, or with a group of colleagues. This week, take just five minutes during your lunch hour to sit quietly on your own. Close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Don’t try to make your mind blank, just let your thoughts wander.

Five minutes is a tiny fraction of your day, but it’s surprising how long it feels when you’re simply sitting in silence.

If your office is noisy, busy or staffed with people who’re likely to throw things at you if you shut your eyes, then you might want to get outside to a local park (depending on the weather), sit in the break room, or even hide in the bathroom.

4. Take Two Minutes to Plan Your Afternoon
Lunch break’s over; back to work. What do you normally do straight after lunch? For many people, it’s checking emails. Instead of going straight to your inbox, take just two minutes to plan your afternoon.

Did you get the three tasks on your post-it note done during the morning? If not, carry them forwards into the afternoon. If you did, great! What other important things do you need to get done? Again, jot them down.

Some of us are morning people, and do our best creative work then – preferring to spend the afternoon on administrative or routine tasks. Other people pick up speed after lunch. Figure out what suits you best, and plan your day accordingly.

5. Have a Complete Rest When You Get Home
How often do you get home from work feeling frazzled, exhausted and irritable? Do you end up wasting time watching television shows that don’t really interest you, or surfing the internet just to unwind?

A faster and much more effective way to get yourself out of work mode and pick up your energy for the evening is simply to allow yourself a real break when you get home:

For the last year and a half of my previous job, this was my routine when I would arrive home from work. I would literally go in, lay down on the bed for about twenty minutes with my eyes closed, and think about nothing. I’d breathe in deeply, breathe out deeply and slowly, and just let my mind and body drift away. After twenty minutes, I would feel tremendously refreshed.

(Trent Hamm, What is Escapism? How Does it Cost Me? on The Simple Dollar)

If you’ve got a lot you want to do outside your work – perhaps studying, writing a novel, starting a side business – then you might feel like this is a “waste” of time. But if a complete twenty minute rest can buy you two or three hours of productivity (or relaxed, happy time with your family), isn’t that better than trying to push yourself straight into things in the evening ... only to end up tired and cranky, without anything accomplished?

6. Read Fiction Before Bed
Finally, at the end of the day, we need to find quiet in order to sleep – not just silence in the world outside us, but in the world inside. Many people find that an effective way to “switch off” from the worries and concerns of the day is to read fiction.

Try turning off the television or the computer at least half an hour before you want to go to sleep, and spend the remaining time reading a good book. Reading engages your imagination, and takes you out of your own world and concerns into someone else’s.

If you don’t like reading (or if you find it hard to focus in the evening) you could try 15 minutes of meditation or journaling, in order to work through any thoughts that are on your mind.

How do you find quiet and stillness in your day? When do you tend to get over-rushed and busy? Could just a few minutes of calm here and there make all the difference to your stress levels?

[Ali Hale] Written on 12/4/2009 by Ali Hale. Ali is a professional writer and blogger, and a part-time postgraduate student of creative writing. If you need a hand with any sort of written project, drop her a line ( or check out her website at Aliventures.


  1. I try to find s little "vacation time" in every day! The suggestions here are fine. Like any lifestyle, finding what works best for you is the way to go! As long as you find it :-)

    For example, I feel running is a moving meditation, and something that works better for me than a sitting meditation. When I tried a sitting meditation, I found that I could do it very well, actually, because, I think, all my running prepared me for it :-)

  2. I also find running, hiking, and riding my bike to be a moving meditation at times, especially if I focus on connecting my breathing.

    And I'm definitely for finding "vacation time" everyday. I think that every day is precious, and there is no reason to postpone "smelling the roses", if that makes sense.

  3. Thanks for passing this on! I like Ali Hales' suggestions; she's often got great tips and I've been forgetting to check in with her blog. Simple suggestions, but ones I too often forget.

    Though I'm with you on the fiction--a good book draws me in and gets me wound up.

  4. Crabby,

    Thanks for reading and appreciating.

    It's most helpful for me to stumble on pragmatic and simple articles, like the kind Ali often writes. It's the left-brained yang to my right-brained yin, or something like that.