Using Mindfulness To Be More Productive

Mindful ProductivityI’ve noticed lately that I’m having a harder time focusing for more than a short period of time.  My brain is telling me that it needs some quiet time to rest and ponder issues.  Unfortunately, my monkey mind doesn’t like the idea of sitting still and being “unproductive.”

My True Self is telling me that, by skimming over everything, I’m missing something – deeper meanings, real connections and more important messages.

Although my monkey mind continues screeching, my True Self is calm, whispering a little louder each day.  I’ve learned the hard way (too many times than I’d like to admit) that ignoring the whispers of my True Self is not a wise idea.  If they go unheeded, the whispers turn into yelling and, eventually, they hit me over the head until I listen.

With all the skimming and jumping around, my monkey mind feels good about “getting things done.”  I can cross off the constant inflow of small to-do’s from my list.  I’m programmed to think that, as long as I’m in motion being busy, it’s “productive” work.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.  “Productive” isn’t always important.

We know that multi-tasking is a lie.  There are all kinds of brain research out there that prove that we can’t do a bunch of things at once.  Instead, we burn a ton of energy quickly switching between things.  No wonder being “productive” is so exhausting.  Our brains weren’t designed to do this for extended periods of time.

What’s a frazzled, over-worked, scattered and exhausted person supposed to do?

Pause.  On a regular basis.  For extended periods of time.

“What?!?!?!” my monkey mind screams.  “Are you crazy?!  You’ve got too much to do to just stop.  You’ve got to keep charging ahead!  You’ve got to stay busy!  Look how much more is still to do on all of your lists!”

To which I respond, “Your inbox will be full on the day you die.”  The inflow never stops and there’s nothing you can do about it.

What you can control is your response to it.  You don’t have to let your monkey mind rule your life and burn you out.

You can learn to tune into your True Self that guides you towards what’s important to you in a sustainable way.

The Magic of Mindfulness

Mindfulness is an amazing tool to help you make the shift from a frantic life to a calm and enriching one.

You can’t change what you’re not aware of.  Mindfulness is the practice of pausing in the moment and noticing, without judgment, what you’re doing, what’s going on in your mind, how you’re feeling and what’s happening around you.

When I catch myself stressing out about something, I go through the following steps:

  • Pause
  • Say to myself, “You’re stressing”
  • Take a few deep breaths
  • Say, “Be here now”
  • Notice that what I’m stressing about is something in the future that hasn’t happened
  • Everything is perfect right here, right now
  • Calmly come up with a plan to deal with what I’m stressing about
  • Let it go.

You can’t have a simple life if you’re unwilling to let go of what you’re used to. ~Leo Babauta

Once you notice what you’re doing, thinking and feeling, you can pause to make new choices.  Instead of following routines, you can choose to go in a different direction, take a different action and see what happens.

Instead of getting back on the figurative treadmill, you can choose to do one thing at a time and be fully present while you’re doing it.

Or you can choose to do nothing at all.

How I’ve Used Mindfulness To Get More Done

I used to keep my office door open all the time so that I can be “accessible” to anyone who might need me.  Day after day I would get frustrated because I would spend the day helping others while never even starting the first thing on my own priority list.

Fortunately, with a little mindfulness and reflection, I realized that I didn’t need to be completely accessible to everyone all the time.  I made a sign for my door that said:  “Please do not disturb me.  I’m focusing.”  Initially, it got a few laughs but no one knocked or barged in.  No one complained that I wasn’t accessible.  It worked.

I had created the space I needed to focus on my priorities – one at a time.

Recently, I’ve felt frazzled with too much to do.  Even after closing my door and putting up my “focusing” sign and completing things, my mind felt like it was short-circuiting.  What did I do?

  • Pause.
  • Take some deep breaths.
  • Notice the short-circuiting.
  • Ask my True Self what it needs to feel better.
  • Listen to what my True Self whispered.
  • Act on what I heard as soon as I could.

This meant going home at the end of the day, sitting on my front porch with a glass of wine, looking at the trees and breathing deeply.  I feel much better now.

Instead of pushing myself to do more, taking work home and ignoring my True Self – all of which would have made me more frazzled and cranky – I paused.

That pause doesn’t seem like much, but it’s all I needed to calm the frayed nerve endings and get my mind back together so I could be focused and energized when I got back to all the work that’s waiting for me.

It also helped me to realize that I have the ability to make the time to focus deeply on things that are important to me.  I don’t have to listen to the screeches of my monkey mind telling me to hurry up and move on to the next thing or try to do ten things at once.

By prioritizing myself and pausing, I could give my mind, body and spirit – my True Self – what it needed to feel human again.

Slowing down really is the best way to speed up.

From plenty of personal experience, I know that pushing myself too hard for too long isn’t productive.  It’s destructive on many levels.

With time and practice, I can hear my True Self whispering to me when I’m doing too much.  I know that pausing is the most effective thing I can do to be more productive.

How do you tune into your True Self?

What do you do during your pause to re-energize yourself?

 

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  1. Mindfulness is such a key component of being more productive. I ask my self what my ideal self would want or how they would act instead of my true self. I find that being aware of your emotions is the key to then accepting then and going about changing them, just as you said. The hard part is deciphering what an emotion is and what it is telling you after you are aware of it. Sometimes I’ll be angry, but it will be because I’m actually anxious but anger is covering the anxiety.

    I agree that it helps me to be more productive. Having a monkey mind causes you to just get so distracted that you can waste a day. Thanks for the reminder that I need to get back to practicing meditating more often.
    Sebastian Aiden Daniels recently posted..Dating Tips For People With A Mental Illness Or Who Are Ashamed About Their PastMy Profile

    • Learning to slow down the process of identifying emotions and understanding what’s really going on is definitely a practice that becomes clearer over time.

      I’ve learned to boil all emotions down to either love or fear. Anger and anxiety (and all the other “negative” emotions) fall into the fear category. If I’m angry about something, I ask what I’m afraid of. That makes it easier to shift my thinking to something more productive.

      The more we can separate ourselves from our monkey minds, the easier it is to dismiss all the screeching.

      Great comment Sebastian!
      Paige Burkes recently posted..How To Go From Craziness to Calm: Getting My Priorities StraightMy Profile

  2. Hi Paige
    The other day I ran into an old friend.She was rumoured to have gone through a bit of an abrasive period in life.At 42 she had just recovered from the famous “burnout routine”….late nights,killing deadlines,stress,competition,aspiration,poor eating ,disturbed sleep,discordant relationships.you know-the works.After medically supervised treatment and a year long sabbatical she appeared stronger and wiser.This is what she had to say
    “I am a firm believer that people should try to make the most out of each day that they are alive. We all have to die at some point and even though this may seem a little morbid it is true. Today or tomorrow could be our last day and therefore this is why we should be living each day to the full.
    She has come a long way through centering herself,meditating,and reflecting in calmness about her blessings;and we all have plenty of them .
    Thanks
    Mona
    richmiraclefiles recently posted..What’s The Intent Behind The Question?My Profile

    • Thanks so much for this powerful story Mona! Your timing was perfect as I shared it with a friend this morning who is headed toward burnout.

      Seems that it’s so easy to see in others but difficult to see and act upon when we are the ones in the midst of the storm.
      Paige Burkes recently posted..The Life OrganizerMy Profile

  3. Hi Paige! Thank you for the great reminders in this post. I LOVE the idea of putting a sign on your door that tells people you are focusing. Both my husband and I work at home and he used to just barge in now and then with a comment and before I knew it, I would lose my train of thought and it would take hours to return. Now I just do a little twisty motion with my hand on my lips and he walks away. Whatever works right? As for me, when I need to be re-energized I either #1. meditate. #2 take a nap. #3 get out in nature. All three help me tremendously. ~Kathy
    Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com recently posted..Avoiding Regrets = A Happier LifeMy Profile

    • Kathy,

      Those are great ideas for maintaining your focus time and re-energizing yourself! Listening to your True Self and acting on what it tells you that it needs is key. Even if what it says sounds a bit crazy, our True Self always knows what’s best for you.

      Thanks for sharing!
      Paige Burkes recently posted..Pick Your Yoga PracticeMy Profile

  4. Pingback: Using mindfulness to be more productive | Articles | Stressmindfulness.com

  5. Paige, thanks for this great post on how mindfulness and slowing down actually allows you to do more. And I love your description of the monkey mind, because that crazy busy mind that always makes you feel like you always need to do something more really does sound like a monkey screeching…haha :)

    Mindfulness is something I’ve really come to recognize as essential in my life as I always want to do more and don’t want to give anything up, but know being overwhelmed by everything I want to do doesn’t let me do anything. I think the key to mindfulness is that it allows you to go within yourself and learn and understand your priorities are from your “true self” (as you stated and not from others). I think many times in life we become overwhelmed not so much by the crazy monkey screeches that come from ourselves but those which are trying to cater everyone elses needs and expectations. By taking a moment to go within we are able to understand what not only what we need to focus on in ourselves (the first key step to being productive anywhere else) but also where we are suppose to focus out time and attention out in the world in front of us.

    Recognizing and adhering to priorities is never easy, but I think that is partially due to the fact that we don’t take time to listen and understand what they are.

    • I think your last line, “we don’t take time to listen and understand,” is the key. Mindfulness is all about taking the time to listen and notice – something that seems so hard to do.

      We may (or may not) know what our priorities are. We also need to notice what not prioritizing those priorities is doing to us physically and emotionally.

      Thanks so much for your comment Rebecca!
      Paige Burkes recently posted..How To Change Your Life In The MomentMy Profile

  6. Pingback: Using Mindfulness To Be More Productive | mindf...

  7. A very informative post. mindfulness is calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and actions, being mindful is to consciously nourish ourselves to be more productive and we may also try spending time in nature, it is a powerful way of giving ourselves a mental refresh. Thanks for sharing. Great post.

  8. Hi Paige! This is an eye opener article. I like it when you said that you didn’t need to be completely accessible to everyone all the time. You are right! Sometimes we need to be alone first to clear our minds so that we can help ourselves then help others.

    I clear my mind by doing a breathing exercise to either calm and focus or uplift and energize. This way, I can finish my priorities early then help others more.

    Thanks for the post Paige!
    Patricia Anderson recently posted..9 Tips to Alleviate Pubic Speaking JittersMy Profile

    • Breathing exercises are great, Patricia! They’re like a little gift that you can give yourself any time. They can also be part of that “alone time” that we all need to bring ourselves back to our senses.

      Thanks so much for your comment!
      Paige Burkes recently posted..The Life OrganizerMy Profile

  9. Loved the article. It is exactly what I need especially since I have been stressing over work this past few months. Yes, I do multi task and yes sometimes because I do so many things at once, I am not able to accomplish anything. So yes, I need a pause button and reflect for a moment and be mindful with what I have been doing. Thanks for sharing!
    Sherill recently posted..How Do You Find 5 Star Business Coaching?My Profile

  10. All my childhood I was told to enjoy the moment, live in the moment and I never knew what people meant by that it was only when I grew and realized how we are bombarded with so much information and things that we humans have lost the power of focus and concentration we are unable to focus on one thing and one thing only.

    I discovered meditation by accident, I was preparing for a very important exam and while preparing I reached a point where I just couldn’t understand anything more. I needed a break but not the typical break where I would watch a show or something. I needed a break from everything so I questioned my self how can I do absolutely and nothing and just exist. I went to central park in our area and realized that the only thing I really to survive is breath so I just focused on my breath and did nothing and thought nothing. I experienced a range of feelings that day and I remember saying to myself that I had found the cure for all the sadness and harshness in life and it was meditating in nature. Enjoying the breeze and literally just chilling.

    I was excited to share my discovery with people but not everyone took it the way I did but now I am starting to find people like you Paige who understand and realize the importance of mindfulness and being in the moment.

    -Saad Asad
    Saad Asad recently posted..Overcoming addiction: My story.My Profile

    • Saad,

      That’s such a beautiful description of being mindful and meditation! As you’ve found, it’s quite difficult to explain how good it all feels to those who have never experienced it. There’s no convincing. Others need to be in a place where they’re open to the experience.

      Whenever I feel overwhelmed, stopping to close my eyes and breathe is the best remedy. Then I remind myself that I can only do one thing at a time and everything will get done in its own time. Then I focus on the most important thing at that moment and life is so much better. It sounds like you’ve discovered the same “secret.”

      Many blessings to you Saad. The more you practice mindfulness and meditation, the deeper you go.
      Paige Burkes recently posted..How to Finally Make Your Resolutions StickMy Profile