Could mindfulness be your productivity super-power?
Ten years ago I bought my first book on the subject of productivity. Since then, I’ve explored many different ways to get stuff done as efficiently as possible.
Then, when I realised that efficiency for efficiency’s sake is not healthy, I became interested in pursuing a slower way of life. Over the last couple of years I’ve been learning about mindfulness as part of my mission to slow the heck down.
Now, I’ve started to notice a connection between productivity and mindfulness. The two go hand in hand, and it’s been a revelation! (It’s obvious when you think about it, but it somehow took me this long to join the dots…!)
If we put all the things we associate with mindfulness - meditation, colouring books, serene Instagram feeds - to one side and go back to basics, being mindful is simply the opposite of being mindless.
When we’re being mindful, we’re being intentional. We’re actively choosing to do whatever thing we’re doing, and we’re fully engaged and present with that thing.
The biggest cause of people not getting stuff done? Distraction. We start out with good intentions, but then we see a notification on our phone and spend the next twenty minutes watching cats riding vacuum cleaners on YouTube. Or we feel stuck and frustrated with the work we’re doing, so decide to check our emails instead.
How often have you glazed over whilst scrolling social media, only to come round fifteen minutes later wondering where the time went? It’s all too easy to drift into mindlessness until something jolts us back into reality.
There’s so much to distract us these days, it’s becoming harder and harder to resist. Particularly when you work from home and don’t have to worry about someone looking over your shoulder and catching you on waterskiingsquirrels.com.
Mindfulness can be your super-power.
In the same way as meditation doesn’t stop you from thinking, mindfulness won’t stop you from reaching for the distraction. But it will make you more aware of what you’re doing, giving you a choice. The moment you notice you’ve switched from the document you’re working on to your internet browser, you can choose to pause and return to whatever you’re supposed to be doing. You can take back control.
So, what can you do to cultivate a mindfulness practice that will help you get stuff done? Here are a few suggestions:
Meditation is a great way to train your mind to pay attention. Just 5-10 minutes a day can make a real difference. The wonderful Mia Forbes Pirie has some beautiful and accessible free meditation podcasts on her website, or you can download an app such as Calm or Headspace.
Pick an activity you do every day (brushing your teeth, washing up, taking a shower etc) and see if you can focus solely on what you’re doing. If your mind wanders, gently bring it back and pay attention to your senses.
Go for a walk but instead of staring at your phone or thinking about what’s for tea, notice how your body feels when it moves. Focus on what you can see, hear and smell.
When you’re working, try stopping every hour and quickly jotting down what you’ve done during the previous hour. Knowing you’re going to write this down can be a really powerful motivator when it comes to consciously rejecting mindless distractions!
Set a timer to go off at regular intervals during your day. The bell can be your cue to check in with yourself. Are you doing what you’d intended?
Don't get me wrong; anyone who's grabbed a copy of my Productivity Toolkit will know that I’m a big fan of tips and tricks that can help us be more organised. But with so much advice out there it can be difficult to see the wood for the trees. You can spend so much time putting systems in place that you find yourself even further behind than you were when you started!
So, I invite you to try taking a mindful approach to your productivity. Pay attention. Notice when you’re wandering off-task and choose to gently return.
It's simple, but that doesn't mean it's easy. It takes repetition, perseverance and self-compassion, but it might just be worth it.
Can you see this working for you? Do let me know in the comments below.