How to Stop Living Life on Autopilot and Feel More Peaceful in ONE Minute

Time is your most valuable asset, but do you struggle to be intentional with your time? Do you feel like life happens to you or worse, have you given in to living life on autopilot?

How you live life on autopilot

You get up, maybe you workout, you get ready, you eat a quasi-acceptable breakfast while chugging instant coffee to rush out the door to your preferred method of commute: plane, train, automobile.

Your attention is immediately grabbed by the phone you clutch in your hand, email notifications, social media scrolling, terrible though not surprising news.

At your office or store or factory or firm or patch of grass you are immediately in it, in that plugged in, productive, employee of the year or just trying to get to the end of the day mode. You are in service of a corporate entity and your mission is simple: complete today’s to do list. Go with the flow.

So you do, less the occasional and automatic snack or water cooler or coffee or restroom break. Probably all the above.

On this assembly line, it feels as though time is not your own, even the time that is given to you for breaks. You must keep the wheel moving.

Work shoots or spits you out on the other side, a Cirque du Soleil performer flying out of a cannon or a wet stain on the sidewalk, both different sides of the same performance.

You continue to perform at home: homework, dinner, cleaning, more work. You crave mindless escape; repeats of The Office on Netflix or that new show your coworker recommended that sounds adequately terrible and numbingly perfect. You sink into the couch and then into bed maybe so you can do it all again in 6-8 hours.

This is life on autopilot.

Being present, both aware and appreciative of the now that is ever unfolding in front of us, is impossible on auto-pilot. Once you realize that time is yours, and you can at any moment snap out of auto-pilot, you can reclaim your power, joy and inner peace. 

Here’s how to snap out of auto-pilot in 1 minute or less:

1) Come back to your breath

You can survive 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food, but only about 3 minutes without oxygen. When you’re stressed, your natural tendency is to restrict your breathing or exaggerate it, which can lead to hyperventilating.

You don’t have to change you’re breathing (yet), just become aware of it. Feel the rise and fall of your chest, the gentle breeze generated by your exhale.

2) Count to 10 to still your mind

With a gentle focus on your breath, tell yourself that you are exactly where you need to be. There’s nothing else that you need to focus on or take care of right now. Being still with yourself is enough. Begin to slowly count to ten. Your mind might wander and you might lose count. 

Even if you get 60 seconds in the first 5 times without making it to ten, keep trying. Practice is as important as the end result.

3) Smile

Eventually, in these micro-meditations, you become connected enough to your head and heart space to feel, truly feel, the joy of presence. Smile to acknowledge and celebrate this aliveness, this progress, this work.

When you’re flying through life or succumbing to a hamster wheel week, it’s hard to be self aware enough to turn auto-pilot off. Building time for reflection into your day and or week brings you into the present enough to be conscious of your lack of presence.

You were born with the human ability to be present, but the pace we feel pressured to move at may make it slip away. In one minute a day, you can practice presence and retrain yourself to stop living life on autopilot and to unlock the life of your dreams.

Haley is an Apple alum, a remote startup leader, a cycling instructor and a mom. Connect with her on Twitter, through her blog or weekly newsletter.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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