In a busy and harried world, seek the pause that refreshes

TIME SAVER

October 02, 1994|By Susan Hipsley | Susan Hipsley,Special to The Sun

It's a given. As the information age evolves, the need to do more and process more information faster and faster will escalate.

Yet we know we need to slow down to feel sane, to feel more often like Captain Kangaroo and less often like a "Star Wars" robot. Take heart: It can be done.

While it's necessary to be busy -- even crazy-busy sometimes -- to keep a modern life in good working order, it's also vitally important to escape a speeded-up time frame regularly. Time is a relentless taskmaster when things need to get done. But it's a solace and tonic when doing something enjoyable. And it's not even a presence when concentrating intensely on something.

To achieve that Holy Grail of the '90s -- balance, or more accurately, psychological comfort -- we have to learn to step in and out of the various ways we experience time. "I call this time shifting," says Stephan Rechtschaffen, director of the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies in Rhinebeck, N.Y. "It's a toggling back and forth between hyperproductivity and an awareness of the world around you." Or, he says, it can be thought of as shifting comfortably between doing and being.

Staying maddeningly busy is too easy, of course. So Mr. Rechtschaffen suggests several ways to shift time perspectives, find mini time-outs, and to feel at ease with our most precious commodity.

* Drive 10 mph slower. Many of us drive fast, even when we're not in a rush. Try a new route or simply notice things along the old one more.

* Take a moment before eating. Saying grace or just sitting quietly reminds us to notice our meal instead of wolfing it down.

* Spend five minutes in your driveway before entering your house. Sit in your car and listen to music, take deep breaths -- anything to allow a shift from work life to home life.

* Shower after work. Just for a minute or two, to "wash away" the day's work and allow you to leave it behind for the evening.

* Wait a few rings before answering the phone. Many people rush to pick up the receiver immediately, which really isn't necessary at home. It's a work-related state of mind.

* Honor whatever it is you're doing. Whatever the task or activity, slow down, do just one thing at a time, do it well, and allow yourself to experience your sense of accomplishment without feeling the need to get it done and move on.

* Come into the moment. This doesn't entail some mysterious ritual. It's nothing more extraordinary than finding a balance between hyperproductive time and "nonproductive" time -- without judging yourself as inefficient. lazy or boring. Take a few deep breaths several times a day, relax momentarily, and become fully aware of the present moment. Let your senses take in as much as they can, and allow your emotions to rise into consciousness. Simply recognize that you feel angry or satisfied, whatever it is at that time.

* Set aside "boundary time." It doesn't have to be a large allotment, but pick a part of each day and allow nothing to intrude upon it. Don't answer the phone or turn on the radio or TV. Try something slow and meditative, such as gardening or taking a walk.

* Be spontaneous. Make no plans for an entire day. Just go off and have an adventure. Court serendipity. Explore new territory -- without a schedule or specific destination.

* Create time retreats. These are longer time shifts that alter your normal rhythm. Plan a vacation during which you are not a busy tourist. Put nothing more than eating and sleeping on your agenda. Relax, read, play, do only what you really want to do.

* Do something you love. Strong emotions bring you into the present better than anything. Most of us don't take time to do things we really love because it often leads to guilt. But if we don't do enough of those activities, their absence leads to frustration, anger and a general feeling of discontent.

IN TIME

Have you developed a time-saving technique you think could help others? We'd like to hear about it. We will share reader tips and offer some solutions to your professional, home or leisure time-management problems. Please leave your name, city of residence and daytime phone number when you call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call (410) 268-7736; in Harford County, (410) 836-5028; in Carroll County, (410) 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6220 after you hear the greeting.

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