Despite the automation of just about everything (and the speed I’ve gained by acquiring the skills for life on my journey), it still seems like there is never enough time to get everything done that I want to do. Whether I blame it on an expanding appetite or L.A. traffic matters less than that I scale back expectations and deal with the reality at hand (mostly, so life continues to be pleasant and manageable!).
In previous columns, I’ve shared ways to Get Things Done in 30 minutes (twice!), 8 minutes, 7 minutes, and a variety of minutes (again, twice!). But life keeps speeding up, and I keep wanting to live it all, so here’s how I slow things down to a manageable pace, five minutes at a time:
1. Meditate for five minutes every day. I’ve had no practice and I’ve had a 20-minutes-twice-daily practice. The practice I’ve finally found manageable enough to actually commit to, every morning, is five minutes: no less, and no more. Five minutes is enough to ground me a little—and over time, a surprising amount—but not so much as to be daunting. Five minutes leaves me plenty of time to do other things; I’ve also added a 10 to 15-minute chunk of time reading some kind of spiritual literature to get my head in the right place first.
But it could just as well be used for yoga, exercise, smoothie-composition, or…scrolling through Instagram. No judging! Just meditate first. (Or last, although if I only have one opportunity, I choose morning, to launch the day smoothly.)
Why take the time? The growing peace and detachment will aid you greatly in auditions and performance, as well as throughout the regular activities of a human being.
2. Organize your morning into modules. For years—decades, even—I could not figure out how people got themselves up and out in the morning. This was most difficult during my years as a professional actor: with no day job or dependents to anchor my day, if there was no audition or shoot to get out of bed, I didn’t. It seemed as though the morning, much less the direction of my day, was at the whim of the fates rather than something I could help determine.
Since rejoining the 9-to-5 world, I’m relearning the benefits of structure. And the backbone of my structure is the module, or pod. Aside from the previously mentioned Meditation pod and Spiritual Reading pod, I have the Tea-Making pod, the Ablutions Pod, the Getting Dressed pod, and the Last-Minute Sweep pod. With no dawdling, even allowing for some transition time between modules, I can be up and out in 45 minutes at an unhurried pace.
Why take the time? “Relaxed and serene” turns out to be a great way to show up for everything, from your day job to your dream job.
3. Clean (or pick up) for five minutes. I’ve grown tidier in my advanced years, but when life gets busy, stuff starts sticking to horizontal surfaces: kitchen and bathroom countertops, desktops, all manner of tables, and of course, THE FLOOR. If there are 20 or 30 minutes to burn after I get home at night from a really long day, they’re used for reading, streaming TV, or an extra-long shower (apologies to the environment).
It’s too hard to firewall even medium-length chunks of time in the middle of a busy week. But five minutes? I figure I can blow that scrolling through Instagram or playing solitaire on my phone in the parking garage (uh…true story, sadly). So instead, every day or so, I pick up or clean something for five minutes. Your place won’t be 1950’s-housekeeper spiffy, but that standard was conjured up by marketing to sell things, so I’m fine with that.
Why take the time? Flying around in chaos and disorder, trying to put hands on a clean audition shirt, your cell phone, or your car keys, is just another way of asking for the day to not go your way.
And the sky is (probably) the limit when it comes to what you can really do, given the smallest amount of time and the tiniest bit of ingenuity. Willingness helps, too. With a little creative application (and maybe some help from your friends) you could probably come up with 50 additional ways to get all kinds of things accomplished toward your career, your health, your home—heck, even your love life. Share your toys, too: with your struggling friends, or here, in the comments.
BOOKS OF THE MONTH: I’ve been on a short stories kick of late, devouring two outstanding collections in a matter of days. You Think It, I’ll Say It gives several peeks into the world of white privilege (subset: overly educated) and much more surprisingly, into the minds of its various world-weary protagonists. Curtis Sittenfeld (author of the best-selling novel Prep) is even more gifted in the short form. Lots of terrific character studies bring your so-called dull characters to life. Even more startling are the chewy revelations in Scary Old Sex, a collection from first-time writer (and life-long shrink) Arlene Heyman. You’ll see a new side to older folks if you’re not there yet, and get a schooling from one who knows (a shrink!) about the secrets lurking in hearts of all ages, under all sorts of unusual circumstances.