Joanna Trollope, who is now seventy-three, said in a recent interview:
"I have an impulse, that I'm trying to control, to live in the future, not least because there's so much less future than there used to be."
I read this on a day when I was meeting with some of my colleagues for the last time. I've been working with most of them for a decade. Half a decade before that, I helped found the first version of the company I'm now leaving. In that decade and a half, I've spent a great deal of my time imagining and planning for things that take years to unfold.
Joanna Trollope's comment reminded me that this is a habit of mind that, at sixty-one, I need to abandon.
Of course, I still have to plan ahead for all the things that relate to managing money but I need to remember that money is only there to give me the freedom to choose how to live today.
I don't want life to be what happens while I'm busy making other plans.
So, I'm trying to teach myself to spend long periods of time living in the present.
It's not easy but here are five things that are working for me:
- Sleeping when I'm tired. Waking when I'm not. This may not seem like seizing the day but I have spent years depriving myself of sleep so that I could get more done. It turns out that NOT making my body work when it wants to sleep lifts my mood, increases my energy and reduces my aggression.
- Focusing on one thing at a time and focusing on it completely. I'm resisting the urge to multi-task. I've never enjoyed it. I know it means that I end up doing things less well than I'm able to. It's a compromise that I've accepted to meet deadlines and cope with interruptions. Granting myself the time to give my concentration completely to one task turns out to be both productive and refreshing.
- Finding daylight early and often in a day. I have spent more of my life in artificial light than in sunlight. In the winter, it was not uncommon for me to leave in the dark, return in the dark and spend the time in between in meeting rooms. Now, I go out to meet the day and see what it has to say to me. I build walks into my day, even if they are only for fifteen minutes between tasks. It makes me feel more connected.
- Eating only when I'm hungry and only eating food that gives me pleasure. Too often, I've used food as a fuel and as a substitute for sleep. I've been driven by convenience. Now I'm trying to make preparing and eating food into a pleasurable part of each day.
- Talking just to connect. I make my living by talking. I talk to find facts, solve problems, promote ideas, build teams and get my own way. I want to move away from talking that pushes my agenda and towards talking that lets me share experiences, hopes and fears. I want to hear and tell stories. I want to be surprised. I want to connect purely for the comfort of the connection.