Everyone wants to be productive. Whether at work or at home, we all want to finish the day feeling good about what we have done. Feeling like we accomplished something. If you think about it, it shouldn’t be too difficult to do. We all have an unending to-do list, so if we want to knock something off the list there are certainly plenty of things to choose from. Why then, if we have so many things to do each day, do most of us end up feeling like the day got away from us? That nothing was accomplished and we feel more frustrated than satisfied?
Of course, part of the problem lies in the fact that we actually have too much to do. In today’s work environment, we are expected to do more with less–and do it more efficiently. That is one of the definitions of productivity. In this multi-tasking world we have created, it is almost impossible to focus on one thing at a time. We have to get as much done as possible in the shortest amount of time, so it is no wonder that multi-tasking has become the hallmark of efficiency both at home and at the office. However, I have talked to many people who have said, “I get a lot done, but I don’t do any one thing well.” Multi-tasking may seem like the answer to increasing productivity but it results in a lower quality product –and that lessens overall efficiency and productivity. Add decreased personal satisfaction to that equation and multi-tasking seems more like a waste of time than a productive strategy.
If you want to get more done during the day and feel better about what you have accomplished, then adding a mindfulness practice into your schedule just may the way to go. At first it might seem counter intuitive. How could wasting fifteen to twenty minutes a day thinking about nothing possibly help you be more productive? The truth is it is not wasted time. In fact, it could just about be the most important fifteen minutes of your day.
One reason we feel unproductive is a lack of focus. We might be engrossed in an important project, but our minds are designed to continually scan the area our environment for possible threats. In today’s world, that probably isn’t a tiger around the corner, but it might be the afternoon meeting. Or it could be yesterday’s conversation with the boss. Whatever the reason, our minds are seldom able to focus on one subject for any length of time. And that results in a loss of time and productivity. A mindfulness practice helps us to focus on one thing at a time, mainly being in the present moment without letting the mind wander. Like any exercise, the benefits of this increased focus translate to our daily lives, resulting in the ability to stay present and engaged with the task at hand.
Increased focus also helps us ignore distractions. Without any mindfulness training, our brain naturally react to each shiny object it sees or imagines. With just a little consistent training, we can quickly evaluate and discard a distraction, seeing it for what it truly is. It is the same as recognizing a thought during a meditation practice. We acknowledge the thought, but instead of letting that thought affect us and reacting to it, we simply label it as a thought and let it go. Again, it saves a great deal of time and energy when you are not continually pulled off-task by issues that are less important than the current project.
Mindfulness also allows you to make decisions in a more rational and thoughtful manner. A mindfulness practice actually increases the grey matter in the pre-frontal cortex–that part of the brain associated with intellect and rational decision-making. Being able to make more thoughtful decisions can decrease errors and help to change behavioral patterns that no longer benefit you. For example, some companies or people choose to continue with a project even though it might not be as profitable as they had expected. The same is true of personal issues such as relationships. When we are able to look at a situation objectively and make decisions based more on reason than emotion, we can choose whether that project– or relationship– is worth continuing or if it will ultimately be a waste of our time.
Finally, being present in the current moment relieves stress. Much of our stress comes from imagining the fallout from future events which haven’t yet happened. Mindfulness allows us to redirect the mind back to the present moment. We remind ourselves the problem dominating our thoughts hasn’t occurred. We can redirect our minds back to the present time and thus save enormous amounts of wasted time and energy. We can then channel that energy into more important areas that will make us much more productive. All at a cost of about fifteen minutes a day. Not a bad return on investment when you stop and think about it.
Interested in ways to bring mindfulness into your life? Contact me for a free consultation to see how a mindful life can work for you.