Have you ever sat in a cafe with a cup of tea and watched the leaves fluttering on the trees outside? At some point, you would have reflected on the ephemerality of it all – the leaves that flutter today might be gone tomorrow, and everything you are going through today in life and at work, good and bad, is a passing moment in time. If you have, you probably have experienced the feeling that the Japanese call Ichigo Ichie.
According to Héctor García and Francesc Miralles, bestselling authors of the book “Ikigai: The Japanese secret to a long and happy life” and also “The book of Ichigo Ichie”, the term Ichigo Ichie means that what we are experiencing right now will never happen again. It’s a reminder that we must treasure each moment and be the best we can be in it.
As a professional in a fast-growing, vital industry, it’s possible for you to live in the moment, but can you make time to actually treasure a moment or reflect on anything? And can it possibly elevate your role at work and in other spheres? According to Héctor García and Francesc Miralles, the Zen practitioners of Japan have a few ideas that might help.
Sit back and observe
Zen teaches us to simply sit and embrace the moment instead of looking for solutions, and that can help the situation resolve itself. We often forget this in our work lives, in the process, putting our efforts in the wrong direction. For instance, when we see team members going through performance slumps, we tend to be too quick in confronting them about it. But very often, the slump is temporary and caused by personal issues that may quickly resolve themselves. The better thing to do is to find out what the team members are going through, be available to support them by shouldering any extra work, and give them the space to resolve their pressing problems. This allows you to cherish your team and celebrate your time together with minimum negativity. It’s also a sound method to use at home, when you see a family member struggling with the expectations made on their time.
According to research done at George Mason University, interruptions not only take up time but also reduce the quality of work done. No matter how good a multitasker you are, deep focus is more likely to ensure you get a task done faster and better. In the way of Ichigo Ichie, doing one thing at a time ensures that we do it as if it is the most important thing in the world. It helps you work with care, which elevates the quality of the work done. At home too, spending time with the family, free from distractions like social media, will make every moment truly memorable. And when on breaks, enjoying the free time without dwelling on pending work, helps you come back refreshed.
Prioritize – and lose the excess baggage
Sometimes, as much as we would like to truly treasure every moment and fully savor the work we do, our mind is elsewhere. This is usually because we have too much to do, and every single task seems important. The principle of Ichigo Ichie suggests that you free yourself from everything that isn’t absolutely essential – a thought echoed by productivity gurus, minimalists, and Zen practitioners. When you take only what is most important (and you have to make an effort to prioritize), you free up mental space to focus on those tasks and work unburdened. Try using a prioritization tool like the Eisenhower Matrix daily to whittle down your to-do list so that you can focus on, and enjoy, what truly matters.
What happens when you practise this timeless method of mindfulness? The effort you put into a piece of work, a hobby, or a relationship leads to others appreciating the care, love, and attention to detail you bring to the table. This makes every moment with you matter to others as well.