Time Management

by Di McLanachan

What if I feel stressed or under pressure?

A little story

When Emperor Hirohito of Japan travelled, his every day was planned down to the last minute. On one occasion, he was scheduled to meet with a delegation of monks and tour a local Buddhist temple for exactly ten minutes. The Emperor and his entourage entered the temple precisely on time, but the building was empty and the monks were nowhere to be found.

The aide responsible for setting the Emperor’s schedule alternated between desperately searching for the missing delegation and making panicked excuses for their absence, but the Emperor simply stood in the centre of the room and said nothing. Exactly ten minutes later, the Emperor indicated that it was now time to leave. On their way out of the temple, Hirohito turned to his aide and said ‘I enjoyed that appointment very much – please schedule me another one tomorrow’.

Anchor tranquillity

Keep a stone or small glass object on your desk as a point of focus and an anchor.

When your mind becomes cluttered, pick up the object, take ten deep breaths, and let your mind focus only on the object. This activity will clear the mind, allowing you to regain focus.

I have so much to do today; I will need to meditate twice as long.

Mahatma Gandhi


Here are some simple exercises you can use in the midst of a busy day or any time you wish to step more fully into the present moment and experience greater peace. Practising them when you’re not stressed makes it much easier to benefit from them when you are.

1. Count to ten

This is a very simple way to get a measure of your level of stress and, if it is high, reduce it.

Close your eyes and count your breaths, counting breathing in and out as one. Focus on your breathing, nothing else.

How many breaths can you count before you feel compelled to stop because you feel you are wasting time, or your thoughts wander to work tasks, or you think this is a stupid thing to do?

If it is less than ten, you are stressed. Go back to one and start again. Keep doing this until you can get to ten breaths while feeling comfortable about it.

2. Breathe deeply

If you were under attack, your breathing would become rapid and remain shallow in the chest, maximising the oxygen supply to the heart to help pump the adrenaline needed to mount a mighty battle or hasten a speedy getaway.

By purposely breathing slowly and deeply into your belly, you trigger your body’s natural endorphin response, allowing your sense of contentment to deepen along with it.

3. Finish what you start

Nothing is so fatiguing as the hanging on of an uncompleted task.

William James

Ask yourself ‘If I could only get one thing done today, what would it be?’

Then tackle that task with real focus. If it takes longer than about 90 minutes, consider taking a break and doing something else for a while.

When you are done with that task, or you need a change, ask your self the same question again, and again, and again.

If you are still feeling stressed, have a look at the topic on Stress Management.