3 Strategies for Mindfulness in Leadership & Life
How hard is it to be mindful when we are constantly inundated with information? It’s been documented that our amazing human body sends us about 11 million bits of information to our brains for processing. Per second. Let that sink in just for one second. With all that is currently around you right now in this moment, it seems impossible. Well contrast that with how much our conscious mind is able to process. That’s about 50 bits per second.
Which translates to .00000455% bits of information we’re offered. Is this shocking that we have a hard time focusing?
if this is accurate, which we have no reason to not believe, as frightening as it is…. then mindfulness is not only a conscious choice, but also must be a deliberate and focused practice. We need to train our brain to pay attention to what is most important. Rather than our brain deciding for us.
Because it does.
Because even as I write these podcast notes, I am sitting on my deck, and currently available to me—one PC, one MacBook (I am currently in training with my brain on this change) an iPhone, an apple watch, a blue tooth speaker, my puppy (Sammie is hot, but loyal), the trees (and that freakin’ cottonwood that floats endlessly into my personal space), fading deck furniture (isn’t’ it time to replace this set?) the birds (we have a bevvy of stunning cardinals, and trying to attract hummingbirds—why won’t they come?), an empty Klarbrum (should I be drinking more water?) it’s really endless. Which is why typing these notes is taking hours versus the minutes it could or perhaps should take if I were truly locked into the experience. The typing, the coherent thoughts, what strategies I want to offer to combat this brain overwhelm.
Practice practice practice.
So, consider the costs of a lack of attention (this list could be truly endless) at work:
- Not focusing on the right priorities at the right time (#merightnow)
- Not giving full and complete attention to our employees, associates, or manager when they need us for problem solving, decision making, collaboration, empathy or simply a human connection
- Being unable to complete tasks in a realistic timeframe
- Navigating from meeting to meeting, focusing on the past ones or future ones—not being present in the current one to contribute and collaborate
- Being unaware of your present emotions, not recognizing the myriad of emotions that make up our daily experiences (see episodes 18 & 19)
- Making choices and taking action based on urgency rather than thoughtful decision-making criteria
- Being reactive rather than proactive
- Add your own: think of the past week and what a lack of mindful might have cost you at work?
I cannot ever begin to list the list personal, but you get the point.
Knowing we are collectively facing a significant challenge in staying mindful, here are 3 strategies to get you started.
- Decide when to be mindful. Let’s face it, being mindful all the time seems a bit daunting. Focus on the situations when mindfulness is most essential. At the beginning of the day look at your tasks (and more importantly your goals and priorities), decide in advance when you will be fully engaged in the present moment. Consider, plan and make a conscious choice. Maybe it’s an important one on one, or a meeting to make strategic decisions, or maybe it’s that time you blocked on your calendar to work on an important deadline. Choose and honor your choice.
- Engage fully with the person or task. Research suggests we spend approximately 50% of our time thinking backwards or forward. Not fully aware of the present moment. Even in listening to this podcast, are you multi-tasking or has your mind wandered at all? Of course. We can ruminate on past situations, actions, conversations, decisions, people, for a variety of reasons. Maybe it’s about regret, or understanding, or to use the past to consider the future. But regardless of the reason we are not in the moment. Or worrying about the future, are we prepared for what’s next? Whether it’s five minutes from now, one day or 6 months in the future—we go there easily, effortlessly and unconsciously. To bring your mind to the present you must literally force yourself and train your brain to stop it’s shifting of our timeframe to actively be in the here and now.
- Single task. And if you are not yet overwhelmed by compelling data: the average person checks their phone 150 times per day average time spent before interruption 1 minute and 15 seconds; the time it takes our brain to resume the task after being interrupted. A staggering 25 minutes. (From: Fuzebox.com) It’s said that only 2% of the population can actually multi-task effectively. The vast majority believe we are in that incredibly small percentage. Be single focused. I promise you; you’ll see the results.
The case for more mindfulness is not difficult to make. The data is grave and the impact on our lives is obvious if we look.
To be intentional in life and leadership, we have to learn to pay attention. Take back our presence. It’s a gift to ourselves, everyone we work and live with, and our lives.
Consider this passage by author Myko Thum, it is truly exceptional:
“The present moment is the only thing where there is not time. It is the point between past and future. It is always there, and it is the only point we can access in time. Everything that happens, happens in the present moment. Everything that ever happened and will ever happen can only happen in the present moment. It is impossible for anything to exist outside of it.”