Can you think of the last time you were 100% engaged in an activity that you were doing or fully mindful for an extended period of time? Chances are you may have been thinking of other things… Did you know that research shows that 47% of the time we are mentally off-task? We spend a whopping 46.9 percent of our waking hours thinking about something other than what are actually doing at the time!
Think of your last lunch-time meal, was it in front of the computer, were you reading the paper, or were you checking your telephone texts/emails? I see it all the time, and I have been guilty of it myself, sit down for lunch, take out your smart-phone and press the button to see what’s happening in your social media world, rather than fully tasting and experiencing the nice meal you are having for lunch. Or have you ever caught yourself sitting on the sofa with your partner, half watching the tv, half scrolling your social media on your telephone and hardly even engaging with the person you are sitting next to?
Recently, I observed a group of 5 teenage girls on the train, all of them busy tapping away on their smart-phones and only offering each other the occasional glance or snippet of a conversation. I witnessed a totally disjointed and disconnected group of humans busying themselves with distractions, and I thought to myself: “What have we become?”. The truth is, we are are under constant bombardment in both our work and personal lives, and our minds are often under constant attack. It has become more and more challenging to stay focussed and present with our daily tasks.
It is amazing that up to 47% of our waking hours, our attention is wandering constantly away from what we are meant to be doing. We are constantly plugged in and almost expecting a distraction from one of the many devices we now carry. We have become more connected and addicted to our devices and technology and less connected and interested in each other. In the workplace, this lack of ability to focus harms our productivity, destroys our creativity, and ruins our general health and wellbeing. Our ability to pay attention is under siege and we need to train our capacity to concentrate and stay engaged with our tasks. This is why the recent popularity of mindfulness training has become such a popular practice in today’s workplace and for many individuals.
HOW CAN BEING MINDFUL HELP
Mindfulness is an impactful way of training our mind to be calm, clear and more focused in the midst of frantic busy-ness. High performing companies all around the globe are embracing the training to enable their people to perform better and improve their wellbeing.
Here are just 5 ways to get you started:
- Check in with yourself first. Some people sleep with their telephone in their bedroom and the first thing they do when they awake is check their emails, this puts puts them into an instantly reactive mode and starts their day in a stressful manner. First of all, leave your phone elsewhere, and before you even step out of bed, start the day with a few mindful breaths and check in with your body and mind.
- Take advantage of prime time. The first 90 mins of your workday is the brain’s prime time for getting important things done. At this time you are more focused, creative and able to think clearly to make complex decisions and do projects. Checking your emails first thing will only distract you and put you into default mode. Spend the first 30 to 90 minutes of the day on important conversations, reflection and planning.
- Ditch multitasking. In case you didn’t know already, I’m going to break the news to you – multitasking is a myth! Researchers conclude that multitaskers make more mistakes, are less productive, less creative and have difficulty focussing on one thing at a time. Mindfulness helps you train your attention so that you can remain focussed on one task at a time.
- Avoid action addiction. The funny thing is the busier we get, the more we get addicted to take on anything that comes our way. We become reactive to all the stresses that present themselves and get caught up in solving details instead of prioritising the important tasks. Make a list and systematically complete the tasks at hand. Take mini-breaks at least every 90 mins to calm the mind, renergise and refocus your attention.
- Meditate for 10 minutes every day. Whether it is mindfulness meditation or any other practice try to make it a regular part of your day. Latest research findings conclude that it will improve your focus, your performance and your general well-being. Mindful meditation helps you to become more aware of how you are feeling in the present moment and how to manage your energy levels.
Source: A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind – Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert. Science Magazine, 12th November 2010