Why Relaxing Matters

I’ve been handing out The Anstendig Institute’s paper, Basic Relaxing Techniques (abridged and adapted version), since I started giving workshops and have lately wondered if everyone understands why it is included in the packet and matters so much. So let’s look at how relaxing helps with time management and organizing. I’m going to skip discussion of why relaxing matters for physical and mental health and assume that you either know these or can easily look them up on the Internet.

Many people assume that if they are under a lot of time pressure to get many things done that they should work faster and try to make all their movements faster. Unfortunately, tensing up and trying to go fast leads to making mistakes, which usually causes time to be lost while the mistake is being corrected. The effort to go faster undermines the most fundamental need for good time management - the ability to make good decisions and to set priorities. Both of these tasks require a cool head to be done well; any form of emotionality will impair clear-headedness and being able to make choices in the strong light of reality. The more relaxed one is, the clearer one’s thought processes will be, and therefore, the better the decision-making process. Actually, the most effective step one can take for better decision-making and priority-setting is probably the one most opposite to going faster, which is to engage in some form of meditation (another form of relaxation). During meditation, the cares of the day are set aside, the mind and muscles relax, and a deeper source of knowledge, understanding, and insight becomes available. One often gets up from a meditation or relaxation session with realizations about next steps and priorities that would not have been possible otherwise.

The biggest barrier to getting things done is often the emotional aura with which we surround items on our to-do list. Tasks we fear loom larger than they really are and we miss opportunities to chip away at them and make them easier to do. Tasks we dislike are avoided and postponed until doing them becomes a crisis and much more difficult than if we had simply done them and gotten them out of the way in the first place. Tasks we resent are overlayered with so much anger that doing them takes so much more out of us than if we perceived them as they really are – neutral in themselves, only burdened with emotions when we make them so. All these states and many more are aided by relaxing which allows us to release the unproductive emotions that keep us from competently and easily doing things so that we can move forward.

Relaxing also helps us to get beyond clutter and to see through the thought patterns that perpetuate hoarding. We all tell ourselves stories about our actions and sometimes about our belongings that are often based more on mythology than reality. Our myths make it difficult to see reality: that clutter never helps us, and that hanging onto things we do not use is mostly harmful. Relaxing helps us see through these myths and to accept reality and the need for change. As long as we are in a state of tension, it is difficult to see the truth of our behavior and more painful to look at it. It is easier to accept our flaws and mistakes when we relax and realize, ‘yes, I’m human and I make mistakes and this is one of them. Now I need to fix it so the rest of life can be better.’. 

When we relax, we become more secure and less likely to search for things outside ourselves to make us feel better. We don’t need things to prop us up so we can give up clutter, allowing us to become more productive.

Relaxation also helps us gain and keep a sense of perspective. When we tense up, we think everything must be done ‘right now’. Actually, there are few things that truly need to be done ‘right now’, but thinking this way distorts our priorities and judgment and interferes with seeing the things that matter most. A sense of perspective, understanding what really matters, being able to see how what we do now affects long-term needs and to have the persistence to stick with things, and being able to set aside the less important is all aided by relaxing.

These are not all of the reasons that relaxation matters for productivity but it should be enough to enable you to see that this is an important part of becoming organized and productive, and of being able to accomplish the things that have significance in your life. Relaxation is a discipline, one that must be practiced regularly to reap the benefits, but isn’t it nice to need to pursue a discipline that has such great side effects? Twenty minutes a day spent in deep relaxation will pay huge dividends.

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