Saturday 5 March 2016

How to Move from Mindless to Mindful: Day 19

I am on day 19 of a 30-day 'mindfulness challenge' training program. Mindfulness is the ability to remain focused on the present instead of thinking about the past or dreaming about the future. The benefits of greater presence are improved concentration, reduced stress and increased productivity.

Every day, my learning partner, Matt, and I view a new online learning video and practice a breathing technique, called 'Take 5,' to sharpen our focus.

I noticed benefits on the third day of the program. I began catching myself when my mind drifted from the task at hand. Like children falling asleep at their desks, my productivity stopped when I was lulled by the past or the future. Once aware of my dream state, I used the breathing exercise to reenter the present and get back to work.

The benefits of mindfulness grew tenfold this week. I was working day and night, writing multiple proposals, holding client meetings and preparing presentations. The more I had to accomplish, the more my mind was distracted by thoughts about the past and future. Luckily, I had developed a trigger response as soon as I lost focus. After a few breaths, I snapped back into my productivity zone.

The emails that Matt and I have exchanged document our progression. Here's a few of mine:
"As I progress, I want to focus on recognizing stress responses." (Day 12)
" I don't feel that my health and well-being have substantially changed but my ability to focus (and stop being unfocused) has improved greatly!" (Day 15)
"Noticing what state we are in is the first step to evaluating if it is where we want to be." (Day 16)
"I am now shifting from becoming less stressed to becoming more insightful, curious about my habits." (Day 17)
"I have gained an awareness of my pattern of tension when I don't have all the facts. (Focusing on) 'where I am now' and 'what is the next step I need to take' helps me start doing something productive." (Day 17)

I am making progress on all of my goals: My performance is improving by being more focused; I am documenting my learnings and noting applications for leaders and their teams as they go through change. 

Yesterday, I noticed someone in a meeting drifting off into space. I wondered whether he was thinking about the past or the future. I was thinking about the present.


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