Fraser Duncan is a Scottish in Bristol, UK, near retirement and embracing the slow. He cares about family, health, aging, compassion, growth, self-awareness, UK politics, and society
One way or another, we are all mostly busy most of the time. We could be running a business or in a stressful job, we could be managing a busy household, or we could be up to our eyes in studying, or in caring for a disabled relative, or engaged in a whole host of busy and stressful scenarios. Often in these situations, we are moving constantly from one task to another to another, never quite having enough time to get to the end of the workload or set of responsibilities that we have, and often feeling stressed and fatigued as a result.
Much is written here about productivity, time management, efficiency, time-saving technology, or some new methodology, or the adoption of some new practice to make our lives better in some way or another. I know this because I have adopted some of these ideas, practices, apps, or solutions myself, finding that some work better than others, and some didn’t work at all for me.
What I have found over the years is that there is always an opportunity to pause in the space between doing one task and the next. In addition, on a personal basis, I have some health problems that can result in me having good days and bad days. On a good day, I try to get as much done as I can, knowing that on a bad day, I might have limitations on what I am able to do. I used to just write off those spaces in between the good days, not expecting much out of them. Then I realized that I might not be able to do much physically on those bad days, but maybe I could get some reading done. It might be punctuated by falling asleep now and again, but I still felt like I was doing something, and it turned out that I was getting through quite a bit of reading.
Thinking about the concept of spaces in between, I began to look at my busy days and the spaces between tasks, and I wondered if I could use those spaces to do something a bit different. I started with the obvious things like a toilet break, or topping up my water, or doing some bending and stretching, to relieve the muscle aches from sitting in the same position for so long.
Then, I made those spaces a little longer, and did things like concentrate on my breathing to release the tension from my body, or close my eyes for a mini-meditation, or read a few passages from a book, or pop outside for a few breaths of fresh air. None of these things took any longer than 5 or 10 minutes at the most. I still managed to get the same amount of work done, but I felt less drained or stressed at the end of the day, just by making better use of the pre-existing spaces in between tasks.
I was already aware of mixing up the kinds of tasks like some physical, some mental, some screen-based, some paper-based. When I am not working to deadlines, and able to work from home, I can also mix and match work tasks and domestic tasks, and maybe even end up with a fully prepared dinner and a pile of folded laundry at the end of a busy day.
In every instance, I have found that using the spaces in between tasks, even if filling with a different kind of task, has lessened my fatigue, decreased my stress levels, and even decreased the number of bad days, thereby providing the opportunity for being more productive, or engaging in self-care activities, which is just as important.
I know that I have been referring to my own set of circumstances, and others may live and work in very different environments, but I do believe it should always be possible to make the best use of the spaces in between, whatever that might mean for each individual person, regardless of how long or how frequent those spaces are.
What are your examples of how to use the in-between spaces, assuming you think that is a good idea? I would love to hear, and learn some more, from you in the comments.