What is ‘Mindful’???
A good friend of mine posted this picture on the group for the Health and Fitness group that we run, and it got me thinking about what mindfulness means to me.
‘Mindful’ seems to be one of those words that is doing the rounds at the moment, and as with most things, I have a little bit of a less purist interpretation of being mindful. So far the majority of people that are talking about being mindful seem to be encouraging people to take mindfulness down to the micro level, in which they are suggesting that one should pay close attention to everything that is going on in your current situation, right down to being conscious of the tastes, smells, lighting etc. This to me seems like one would almost be concentrating on everything in the moment, rather than just being in it.
I therefore see things a little differently.
As with most people, I’m a pretty busy person, and I tend to have a lot going on in my life. I have recently noticed that with all of the things that I have in my life that are important, I have allowed the development of a lot of crossover of these things into time in which I didn’t intend to deal with them; and the most violating of this being into the Quality Time that I have been spending with my wife (Danielle), my family and my friends, with the effect that I am having virtually no down time from waking up until going to bed.
Now I’m totally fine with being busy, and I’m even fine with being active from the moment I wake until the moment I get into bed; however, the way in which I think that this can be of value to you, is to look at MINDFULNESS as simply giving your FULL attention to the situation at hand, and protecting your thought process from anything else invading it. Defending it at all costs. And creating some processes and habits in order to make this a relatively simple thing to implement in your life.
What I realised is that because I have allowed for my increased activity to become unstructured, I was not only working virtually 18 hours a day, dealing with things on the fly whilst doing other things and hence being less productive all round, but I was also unable to switch my brain off from thinking about my never ending to-do list in the times where I was supposed to be relaxing or providing Danielle with her much needed attention (my wife is sort of like a Bonsai Tree, in that she need lots of attention and conversation, otherwise she may actually die… or worse kill me). This is obviously bad both professionally, and more importantly, it’s not great for un-winding or for the health of your relationships!
So whether it is personal or professional, my take on Mindfulness, is simply making the very best of the situation that you’re in at any given time.
I therefore made a decision to make some changes. And so far it’s working brilliantly!
- Put Quality Time in The Diary. Define times with your loved ones where you will spend Quality Time with them. Put these dates in your calendar and ensure that during this period of time, you: disconnect from the world; stop thinking about what you have to do; and really appreciate the time that you are spending with the people that you are with. This will not only ensure you actually have some down time, but will also create some structure for your loving significant other, that you are going to spend time with them this week, and allow you to avoid that whole frustrating and guilt inflicting conversation about how you’re always working.
- Can It Wait?? There will always be things that manage to sneak past your guard during your Quality Time, that may even seem like high priority tasks. Even if this is something that is super important, and “will only take two minutes”; ask yourself, “Will this wait until later, or do I have to do it now??” I have found that in the majority of instances, most things can wait. If you ask people if it can wait until tomorrow, they will mostly say yes.
- Create a Weekly Schedule. I have never struggled to switch off from work when I walk out of the door and 5pm, but with my entrepreneurial activities, my brain seems to be processing 24 hours a day! I have found that since I have structured my work and relaxation hours, into their own time boxes, that I have been far more able to switch off from my outstanding tasks, and again be able to really switch off and relax that precious time that you get to spend with your loved ones.
- Make a Quick Decision. I found that much of the leakage of thoughts into my down time were by tasks that I had failed to make a decision on what course of action to take, or dwelling on whether I’ve made the right decision. I have therefore started to ask myself if it’s really the end of the world if my chosen course of action isn’t perfect, and what is the potential repercussions in not making the best choice. In most instances it wouldn’t be the end of the world if things don’t go perfectly, and where I need a bit more thought I have become more happy to shelve thinking about it until my next appointed work time. So far, I have found that if I make a choice and act immediately, that things always pan out pretty well, and I’ve saved myself hours and hours agonising over decisions for things that I either don’t have a great amount of control over the outcome anyway, or that the value of the outcome doesn’t change much either way. The added benefit is that because I have decided to make a decision in this manner, I ceased to agonise after the fact as to whether they’ve made the right decision, and instead just await the outcome.
- Define Key Tasks. Pick a few key things from the to-do list that need to be achieved that day. Put them in a separate list for that day (i just write mine on a piece of paper that I throw away each day), and totally forget about everything else on your main list until you’ve got those key tasks finished.
- Blocks of Focus. Have defined time periods that you will be focused on a specific task (between 30mins and an hour), in which you put your phone on silent, don’t check your email or phone, and refrain from engaging in office chit chat. This allows you to fly through things without losing valuable time when you’re distracted by things that are usually low value or importance.
- Quick Task Blitz. Spend half an hour knocking off a handful of lower priority tasks, that can be done pretty quickly. This just helps to stop your to-do list becoming that every growing monster that you feel you need to devote more time to.
- Just Delete Stuff. If you’ve not done something for months and months, there is a good chance that you don’t actually need it. It’s actually quite liberating to just cheekily cross a few things off and pretend like they were never there. As with doing a blitz, de-cluttering your to-do is a great way to clear the stress of that enormous list of required man hours that you round with you!
Thanks for reading
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