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 Rx: Halting Time Pressure 
 
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Mind Body Health by . View all columns in series

Live in the Moment
There is no moment in time other than the one that is happening right now. Being totally absorbed in what we are doing in the present is an exhilarating experience, one that makes us feel truly alive, positive, and productive. It creates the "timeless" moments during which our tensions, fears, and pressures about time evaporate.

To get to this state, you must learn to break the rushing habit.

Establish Your Rhythm
Occasionally throughout the day, step outside your scheduled routine and pay attention to your natural rhythms, your peaks and valleys of energy, alertness, concentration, and creativity. Some people prefer morning; others are night owls. Are you one who gets sleepy at midday? Then take a nap.

Remember, not all days are created equal. Some days you marvel at how productive you are, other days you'll feel like you're swimming in molasses. Acknowledge and respect these differences. Don't blame yourself for not performing like a machine. Vary the tempo of your life. Balance fast-paced, intense activities with more relaxed ones.

Take time out for fun, relaxation, daydreaming, contemplation, family, friends, and hobbies.

Skills for Managing Details--Keep a Time Log
For many of us the days and weeks seem to rush by so fast we don't really have a sense of how we are spending our time. Keep a log for one or more days. Each hour of the day while you're awake, take a few seconds to record your activities and the time spent on each. It helps to use an alarm to remind you each hour. Then add up the amount of time spent in various categories such as work, telephone calls, meetings, socializing, eating, cooking, personal hygiene, shopping, commuting, errands, television, hobbies, exercise, reading, child care, etc. Any surprises? Do your time investments reflect your highest priorities and goals?

Set Priorities
Keep a notebook with a running list of anything that requires an action (things to do, errands, etc.) without regard for deadlines or its importance. Then evaluate the importance of items listed in terms of your overall goals. Sometimes you'll have to set priorities not only on your own individual goals, but also on the goals shared by your family or work group. For each entry, ask, "What would happen if I didn't do this? Is this task worth the investment of my time? Do I need to do this, or could someone else do it?" Pass off tasks you don't enjoy, aren't good at, and don't need to do yourself.

Learn to Schedule
Understand what specific steps go into a complex task and prioritize them. Give yourself a realistic schedule and add about 25% to your first estimate for interruptions, unscheduled events, and unforeseen problems as buffer for success. The most achievable goals are those that are moderately demanding, realistic, measurable, flexible, and written down.

Combine Tasks
Learn to consolidate your goals and activities. When you pick up dry cleaning, drop off the camera at the repair shop. Instead of taking the car, get some fresh air and exercise by walking or biking. Talk to a friend while going for a walk. Peel apples while watching the news. Keep a list of short, five-minute tasks you can do when you' re waiting or "between things": Sew on a button, polish your shoes, empty the dishwasher or water a plant. Learn to think of waiting as a gift of time: relax, read, write a letter, or make notes.

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 About The Author
David S. Sobel, M.D., M.P.H., is a practicing physician in adult medicine and Medical Director of Patient Education and Health Promotion for Kaiser Permanente Northern California. He is physician lead for the......moreDavid Sobel MD
 
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