Is your mind always racing?

“We are always getting ready to live but never living.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Recently I’ve noticed my mind getting into a bad habit. A bad habit with three parts: thinking about how much I have to do, racing ahead to the next thing on the list, and feeling resistance to doing that next thing, because it’s standing in the way of the next three things I have to do after that.

So if I’m on my way to a meeting, I’m thinking about how I don’t want to be in the meeting. On the ride home from the meeting, I’m thinking about how I don’t want to work out. Basically, I’m taking a perfectly good present moment and tainting it with my resistance to a moment in the future, something that doesn’t even exist — sounds like insanity, doesn’t it? What’s even more ridiculous is that once I get to the meeting, to the gym, back to the laptop, I settle in and do my thing.

So what was the point of the resistance!?

It’s like Kerry Gleeson said: “This constant unproductive preoccupation with all the things we have to do is the single largest consumer of time and energy.”

If any of this resonates with you, here are two strategies you can use to rein in your racing mind.

First, think of your day in terms of segments. Getting ready in the morning, for example, can be one segment; the commute to work, each phone call, meeting or email session is another (30 minutes or less is the ideal length). This helps creates boundaries for your attention so you don’t feel like you have to think about everything at once. Now, when I catch myself rushing I say, “Hold on, we’re in the ‘getting ready for work’ segment.”

Second, pump up the sensory experience of your daily routine. We’re here in physical bodies, able to see, hear, smell, taste and feel the aspects of a physical world and, yet, when we’re in our heads, it’s like we’re snorkeling through life, not registering the full sensory input of what we’re doing.

Silly example: Here in France, the towel racks are heated. So when I get out of the shower, my towel — which is already unbelievably soft — is also toasty warm. At that point, I’m not thinking about the emails I have to write or the tasks I have to complete, I’m thinking, “I lovemy towel.” There are so many opportunities during the day to notice and appreciate — how the first sip of bulletproof coffee tastes, the ink of your pen flows, your daughter’s hair smells — and the ability to dive into the sensation is a really powerful skill.

Neither of these strategies will take time or slow you down. You’re going through your day anyway, what if you actually paid attention and appreciated it?