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Do you ever struggle to manage your time? Does it feel like a challenge to get everything on your to-do list done?
I have been thinking a lot about time management, how to increase my efficiency and effectiveness, and how I use my energy and time throughout the day.
There are all kinds of perspectives on how to best organize and use your time. “Time-blocking,” for example, is just one tool that many people use to map out how they can meet their intentions. Amongst the sea of approaches, I have realized that there are a number of underlying qualities that can help us actualize an efficient and effective schedule.
Discipline is an internal quality that requires practice and effort to develop. Some of us have been in settings that are so controlled that we struggle to create our own internal motivation and structure. Others have not been exposed to enough examples of how discipline leads to growth and happiness, so we aren’t practiced in implementing it in our own lives.
Discipline of some sort, whether physical, moral or intellectual is indeed indispensable, and no training can be said to be complete and fruitful if it disregards this element.
To use time effectively, we have to learn how to be structured and disciplined. One tool is to try and develop patterns one item at a time, rather than attempting to simply increase our discipline in every area of our life at once.
I had a friend who was struggling to get out of a difficult period of depression. Alongside formal therapeutic support, she decided that she would start each day with a cold shower. She described the logic that through doing an act consistently every day, something that was not super comfortable or natural to her, she was reminding herself that she could control her actions and stick to something, no matter how difficult it was. With this small act, she was nurturing her sense of discipline and re-building it after a span of struggling to motivate herself to action.
2. Meditative Focus
Meditation allows us to re-ground ourselves in our body, activate our spiritual selves, and clear out distracting feelings. When we meditate, we can re-energize our minds, which allows us to move forward with fluidity and focus. When we don’t slow down, breathe, and re-orient ourselves, we can find ourselves using our time ineffectively. We might procrastinate, become easily distracted, or struggle to do things properly, prolonging the time it takes to complete any given task on our list of things to do.
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When we move with meditative energy, we can experience things the way we intend to experience them rather than getting distracted by the next item on our list of things to do. The Baha’i writings also indicate that through meditation, we have an opportunity to gain a deep understanding of the world around us:
Meditate profoundly, that the secret of things unseen may be revealed unto you, that you may inhale the sweetness of a spiritual and imperishable fragrance, and that you may acknowledge the truth… so that light may be distinguished from darkness, truth from falsehood, right from wrong, guidance from error, happiness from misery, and roses from thorns.
3. Set Priorities
When I prioritize my list of things to do, I often forget to include the things that nourish my soul. Blocking out time for prayer, for example, which nourishes my soul and has the power to influence the world around me, can imbue meaning and clarity for the rest of the tasks in my life.
The Baha’i writings state that the purpose of our lives is to acquire heavenly virtues, which we can only do in doing good for others. Grounding our tasks in serving others allows for some external motivation to use time effectively. While we naturally have to take care of our own needs in this process, we can orient our self-care in the larger context of doing good for those around us.
The Baha’i writings explain that:
the life of man is not so restricted; it is divine, eternal, not mortal and sensual. For him a spiritual existence and livelihood is prepared and ordained in the divine creative plan. His life is intended to be a life of spiritual enjoyment to which the animal can never attain. This enjoyment depends upon the acquisition of heavenly virtues.
The sublimity of man is his attainment of the knowledge of God. The bliss of man is the acquiring of heavenly bestowals, which descend upon him in the outflow of the bounty of God. The happiness of man is in the fragrance of the love of God. This is the highest pinnacle of attainment in the human world.