I have recently become very interested in mindfulness meditation. I started off by signing up for Headspace and following that for 10-20 minutes each day. Then a friend recommended that I read Eat, Pray, Love which I loved and got totally inspired by, and after following Elizabeth Gilberts journey, I had a desire to learn a bit more, so I downloaded a few books and came across The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh which gave me a bit more of an insight and I’ll be honest, it made me slightly panic.
The book describes being mindful not only at designated times of meditation, but all throughout the day, on whatever activity you are doing. What this means is that you give 100% concentration on the activity you are engaged in, without your mind wandering off to think of anything else. The book covered 2 examples which have really stayed with me and illustrate the point well, the concept of mindful washing up and mindful tea drinking. Its about fully engaging in the here and now and the task in hand, rather than multi tasking and thinking about all other things at the same time. If you are washing up, wash up. Focus on those dishes, concentrate on it, don’t be planning what you are going to have for dinner. If you are having a cup of tea, have a cup of tea. Sit back, relax, savour the taste. Focus only on drinking the tea.
This is what caused my initial panic. Wasn’t this a contradiction to my other key goal of productivity? If I was to only focus on one thing at a time, would that not make me less productive? Would I be able to achieve as much as I used to in the day. As I learnt more about the subject, the penny started to drop, this wasn’t going to make me less productive, it was actually going to make me more productive and here’s why:
1) Increases focus
The practice of mindfulness meditation involves constantly bringing your attention back to the main objective of your meditation, very often this can be your breathe, or anything else you are focusing on. Practising this through mindfulness meditation can help you translate it into your everyday life and learn how to stay focused on the task you are carrying out, rather than flitting from one thing to another.
2) Declutters your mind
If you have a mind that wanders all over the place, thinking all sorts of thoughts, jumping from one thing to the next, always looking into the future and what is next for your to do list, mindfulness can really help to calm that chaos and let the mind rest rather than running at 100 miles an hour.
3) Live in the present
It can be tempting to spend a lot of time living in the past and future, reminiscing and dwelling on what has already happened and thinking about and daydreaming about the future and what you want to happen, rather than just focusing on and enjoying the present. Being mindful about each task you carry out allows you to better focus on and enjoy the present.
4) Better planning
My main area of concern when I initially started learning about mindfulness was about the fact that it seemed like I might have less time to plan for the future. If I could only concentrate on one thing at once, wouldn’t I have less time to think about future activities and wouldn’t that make me less productive? This is when I realised that I can plan, and in fact planning is absolutely crucial, but rather than constantly multi tasking and planning sporadically whilst carrying out other activities, you can set time aside for planning and to really focus on what you want to achieve in the future and how.
5) Reduces stress
If you’re anything like me and you make up entire stories about what might happen in the future, then you’ll understand that this can be a big cause of stress. You can end up spending time stressing about future scenarios that might or might not ever happen, and you’ll realize that this is a totally useless waste of time. Mindfulness can help us come back to the present, stop worrying about the future and in turn help you stop feeling so stressed.
6) Sleep better
Linked to the reduction of stress, if your mind is decluttered and you are focusing on the present rather than worrying about the past or future, then you will find you can get a better nights sleep, which helps you feel much more rested and therefore allows you to be more productive.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are still areas where I will be multitasking. Reading on my train journey on my morning commute for example. I can still focus on reading, even though I am travelling on the train, I don’t just need to be mindful about being on the train. Being mindful takes time to master. If you dedicate some time each day for meditation, then start to practice being mindful in every task you do, over time it becomes much easier and you will find that it can help you become more productive in your every day life.
Do you practice mindfulness meditation? Does it help you to be more productive? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.