The Urban Monk’s guide to nailing your to-do list
A BIT ABOUT ME: I am a Taoist monk and doctor of oriental medicine. Once I realised I couldn’t help the world fast enough in clinic, I turned to the media. My mission is to awaken the spirit of humanity. So many of us are sleepwalking through life, so I see my job as helping people wake up to themselves.
TAKE A BREATH: Look at where your heartbeats are going. Stopping in time can give you a sense of where you’re at and where you’re going. Most of us are just tumbling down the whitewater – not even thinking about where we’re headed – and then we’re in some dark alley 20 years later wondering what on earth happened to our lives. Learning to stop time happens when you learn to slow the breath. Once you can do that, you can have your finger on the dial of time and you’re back in the driver’s seat.
WATER YOUR FLOWERS: I like to use the metaphor of a Life Garden. If you had room for five or six ‘flowers’ in your life, what would they be? Maybe family, friends, career, health and hobbies. How much water do they each need? The water is in the form of time, energy and attention. Ask yourself which of these flowers are withering – and which are the ones you are watering too much? Then the way you allocate your time becomes a conscious decision, so you’re not burdened by guilt, feeling like there’s something else you should really be doing.
JUST SAY NO: It’s one of the strongest words in the English language. We’re such people pleasers that we can find ourselves saying ‘yes’ to everything, but saying yes to drinks with a colleague means saying no to your sleep, your dog, your exercise or whatever else you had committed that time to. And that is what creates stress. There’s nothing wrong with saying ‘I love you, I miss you, but I’ve got stuff to do’. Then look at your calendar and find a date that works for you and gives you a plan to look forward to.
KEEP MOVING: It’s easy to convince yourself that you don’t have time for exercise, but I can’t stress enough how much more efficient it makes you in the long run. We’re not designed to sit on office chairs under artificial lights for eight hours or more every day. Get up every 25 minutes and stretch, do some jumping jacks or lunges, take a brief walk. Movement sends oxygen to the brain which not only makes you more productive but also less likely to become anxious or depressed.
THE OUTCOME: Everything gets better when you learn to stop time. Your quality of life, your sex life, your sleep, your complexion – all of it gets better. Most of us are running ragged. The best gift you can give anyone is the gift of time, and the ability to gain back control of the way they spend it.
3 TO-DO LIST TIPS
BE REALISTIC: If you stack too much on your to-do list you end up not doing some tasks, which makes you feel you’re failing. Only list what you can reasonably achieve in a day.
BE BRUTAL: Look at what items keep getting dragged forward each day. Why aren’t they getting done? Can anything be deleted? Or delegated?
BE DETERMINED: Sticking to the plan is the hard part, but continually pushing items back is unhealthy. Write your list and, as much as possible, stick to it.