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In Praise Of Zen Habits: Creating A Schedule That Keeps You Calm

Anxious, overworked, and overblown? Try a blissful taste of Zen Habits.

Habit has been called the invisible architecture of our lives. Often, though, the design's more busy than minimalist.

It's against (and possibly with) this chaos that Leo Babauta founded Zen Habits, his full-time blog "about finding simplicity in the daily chaos of our lives." Founded in 2007, the monochrome, Georgia-set blog is a safe haven for a million readers.

In a new post, Babauta outlines how to fight daily stresses and anxieties with calm. We've got a few examples of how to:

Bring your morning into focus

The beginning of the day is ripe for action. What the most successful people do before breakfast is a topic of great discussion—and some productivity experts argue that you need to get through your routine as fast as possible. Babuata goes in the other direction: Instead of the stressful rush, he opts for calm ritual.

The blogger meditates, does a few yoga poses, and then begins to write, all before letting the noise of the day in. "You don’t need to do the same things," he writes, "but find the quiet of the morning and make the most of it."

Watch your responses

What does stress make you do? Babauta notes a familiar range of reactions, from getting angry, feeling overwhelmed, jumping into action, or wishing things were different. (Raise your hand if you've done all of these today.) Rather than trying to attack that response, Babauta says that we should watch it, one of the cornerstones of mindfulness. If we learn to watch the responses we can then, slowly, learn how to organically change them (and become more effective leaders).

One of the common responses is to take things personally, like when a coworker says something rude or when kids don't clean their rooms. Rather than taking that as an attack, Babuata says to realize that they're dealing with their own issues. From what he writes, it's a slow, aspirational process.

You can learn not to interpret events as a personal affront, and instead see it as some non-personal external event (like a leaf falling, a bird flying by).

Do one thing at a time

Consider single-tasking. If you're tweeting while reading, eating while watching TV, and planning your day while shuffling through chores, you're doing the opposite, with possible negative impacts for your state of mind. Babuata says that constant simul-tasking can cause a current of anxiety in everything we do, because we're then always looking to be doing one more thing.

Instead, he says, focus.

Just wash your bowl. Just walk. Just talk to someone. Just read one article or book, without switching. Just write. Just do your email, one at a time, until your inbox is empty. You’ll learn that there is peace in just doing one thing, and letting go of everything else.

And if you think you're good at multitasking, you probably aren't.

The 7 Habits of Calmness

[Image: Flickr user Vicki Burton]

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  • Our modern society needs to re-calibrate towards single tasking. “Speed is the modern, natural high,” says psychiatrist Edward Hallowell, MD, director of the Hallowell Center for Cognitive and Emotional Health in Sudbury, Mass. But he states that our brains are not designed to multi-task . We might celebrate the multitudes of multi-tasking but research shows that this is far from truth.

    That’s because the cerebral cortex can pay attention to only one thing at a time, says Hallowell. “What people really do is shift their attention from one task to the next in rapid succession. That reduces the quality of the work on any one task, because you’re ignoring it for milliseconds at a time.”

    [Multi-taskers] "are suckers for irrelevancy," said communication Professor Clifford Nass, one of the researchers whose findings are published in the Aug. 24 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "Everything distracts them."

  • Chuksy Nwangwu

    This is true, I've got a lot of bok to read, targets to meet in business and life. But then I found out that multitasking time's especially when one is creative in nature must not be a character of such one. I recently began to consider a mail at a time, a book At a time
    This is truly in synchrony with my order of procession in life . Thanks for your insight.