You never have enough time, right? There’s always too much work, too many obligations, and never enough room to do the things you ought to be doing: staying in shape, seeing the world, spending time with people you love.
I have a solution, but at first glance you may reject it as too simple. Resist that impulse, because in the entire history of the human race, no timesaving strategy has ever come close to surpassing the effectiveness of this one.
It not only saves time, but it also saves jobs, friendships and even lives.
Instead of acting, just breathe.
The greater your impulse to act, the more useful this tactic will be. Things done in haste almost aways turn out to be inferior compared to actions taken with a calm and clear focus.
I’m not just talking about taking ten deep breaths when you are angry.
I’m talking about taking deep breaths before you make a business decision.
Before you agree to go to an hour-long meeting or to spend a day traveling, try focusing on your breathing for a minute or two… then decide whether either is a good use of your time.
Call me naive, but I believe you have inside of you the answers to most of your toughest questions. These answers do not live on the tip of your tongue, enabling you to say or do the first thing that comes into your head. No, that is a formula for wasting your time day after day.
The answers you need live below the surface of superficial thinking. They emerge when you stop moving and thinking long enough to hear the voice of wisdom inside you.
Voice of Wisdom? Seriously?
I’m no neuroscientist, but I know my conscious brain often behaves like an immature idiot. He loses his temper and says things he regrets. He sends emails that cost him five hours of recovery time. He decides a piece of work is good enough, when it actually needs to be spectacular.
Sorry, but the same is probably true for you.
These are basic lessons from mindfulness, the practice of maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and status. Mindfulness programs have spread through many well-established, highly successful companies.
Here’s an example from The Economist:
Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates and Bill Gross (formerly) of PIMCO are two of the biggest names in the money-management business, and both are regular meditators. Mr Dalio says it has had more impact on his success than anything else.
Let’s be honest… you know that the more calm and focused you are, the more efficient and effective you will be.
The way you be more calm and focused is to take more time to do nothing but breathe.
You can do this in a meeting, in between phone calls, after an over-emotional discussion, or during those many moments in a day when you have to decide: what do I do next?
You may choose to believe that the best ways to save time are to download an app, buy an organizer, keep a To Do list, or take a time management course. Some of these may help, but they all pale next to this habit:
Instead of acting, just breathe.
One word of warning: it is perplexingly difficult to follow this advice.
I have a friend who has meditated every day for more than 20 years. Do you know what he tells me? Many days, it still requires an act of will for him to slow down and take the time to pause. Right now, something inside you is probably saying: move on, stop reading, do something.
In truth, the smartest thing you can do right now is to do nothing for a minute or two and let this possibility sink in.
This article was written by Bruce Kasanoff from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.