Is watching TV or surfing the internet bad? Will taking an extra 15 minutes on your lunch break make us unproductive? Is the time we spend not working a waste of time? Not at all. What makes activities of leisure like taking a longer lunch, watching a TV show or scrolling through Facebook dangerous to our mind is worry.
Worry is thinking about the past or the future instead of focusing on the present moment. If we are watching a movie and worrying about what might have happened during the day, or about that project we haven’t finished we are just adding extra anxiety to our life. The same is true if you are taking a lunch break but continue to think about what will happen if you do not finish that project on time. The best way to control the anxiety in life is to be aware and make sure we are participating one of three actions at all moments: doing, learning, or relaxing.
Doing leads to progress. Thinking about a task does not get it done. We can spend hours contemplating what to put into a report, but nothing happens until we open up our notepad or computer and start writing. Doing requires physical engagement, it is execution. The process of acquiring the mental abilities to do something is through learning.
There are times that we will be presented with a task that we cannot perform simply because we do not have the knowledge to do so. Learning does not only take the form of reading a manual, or taking a class—it also takes the form of being physically engaged in an activity. In this way it is similar to ‘doing.’ Learning requires of complete mental attention and that is why we need to let our mind rest at times and relax.
I hope I don’t have to explain much about relaxing. Relaxing is a very important process in maintaining high performance over a long period of time. Everyone relaxes differently. The one commonality of relaxing all individuals share is that it acts as a mental recharge. Relaxing helps us be more productive when we are doing or learning. The biggest mistake individuals make when relaxing is letting their mind wander to what they could be doing or learning. They leave the present moment and lose all the benefits relaxing gives us. If you watch TV to relax then focus completely on the TV when you are watching. When you are eating a meal, focus on the meal and how good it tastes instead of thinking about what time you need to get back to working on that big project.
The one common component of all three—doing, learning, and relaxing—is that each requires us to live in the present. If we are truly focused on the moment it is impossible to do, learn, and relax at the same time. Most importantly, it becomes impossible to worry. Almost every activity has its place, the trick is knowing where and when it belongs and not to worry.
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