By Scott Peltin
In today’s chaotic and unpredictable world, many of our clients are asking how they can be less distracted, more focused, and more productive at work. This question is becoming more and more important as many are working from home and the work dynamic is quite different. At the same time, we are astonished at how many of our clients say they have tried meditation to create these benefits but felt they failed. These same clients often feel guilty and ashamed because colleagues, family, and friends are extremely devoted to their meditation practice and have found great success in it.
The truth is, meditation is a scientifically proven, effective tool for helping self-regulate your autonomic nervous system. Simply put, it helps you get out of that chronic overdrive and back into neutral. It can also be a great tool for improving focus, but it is not a magic pill that you take in the morning and then, miraculously, you have peace of mind and perfect focus all day. Most important to us at TIGNUM is to distinguish between the benefits you want and the strategies/tools you use to get those benefits.
Why is this important? Well, when one strategy or tool doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t mean you are a failure. It simply means it may not be the right strategy or tool for you at this time in your life. For many, a strategy or tool may serve you well at certain times and in certain circumstances, but not work well at other times.
So, let’s come back to some strategies and tools that can produce the benefits of being less distracted, having more focus, and being more productive:
- We’ve mentioned meditation, but know that it doesn’t have to take up a lot of time. Don’t underestimate the value of doing shorter meditations and using them as a quick cognitive recovery tool (before and after high-frequency brain activity).
- Do movements in the morning (and small bits throughout the day) that require mobility, stability, and balance. At TIGNUM, we use our Daily Prep movements, which can be done in less than 15 minutes. The key, though, is to focus your full attention on how the movements feel, and on the flow the movements create. These movements have been shown to stimulate synergy in the brain, to increase energy and focus, to decrease pain (a huge distraction), and to prepare you for a busy, demanding day. Yoga and Tai Chi are alternative movements that create similar benefits.
- Insert micro-oscillation breaks throughout your day to quickly recharge your cognitive and emotional resources. This is a great way to make sure you not only show up at your best at your most important events, but also that you return to your family with the energy and focus you want. These breaks can be as short as 1-5 minutes and can include doing a simple breathing technique, listening to music, briskly walking up and down a few flights of stairs, playing a game (ping pong, for example), or doing a puzzle (crossword, Sudoku, etc.).
- Create transitions between your meetings and events where you set clear intentions specific to how you want to show up and who you want to be. These transitions not only break up your day, but they also force you to zero in on what is coming next. They prime your brain to produce the benefits you have selected such as being focused, calmly dealing with distractions, being an energy multiplier, and being solution-oriented.
- Practice the art of reflection at any point of the day, but especially at the end of your day as part of your pre-bedtime routine. During these reflections, you build the skill of self-observation and you rewire your brain for future success. Reflecting on those things you have done well, and on how you actualized your intentions, helps you not only self-regulate your autonomic nervous system, but also make clear to your brain the behaviors you want in the future.
- Implement longer, rhythmic, cardiovascular activities like cycling, jogging, walking, swimming, etc. Many of our clients share with us that these activities are meditative, rejuvenating, and very reflective. These activities stimulate the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (miracle grow for the brain), which can help you learn while you exercise. Additionally, according to Johns Hopkins, these exercises have a dramatic anti-depressive effect, blunt the body’s response to emotional stress, improve working memory and focus, and create a better task-switching ability.
Along the journey of becoming a Sustainable High Impacter, it’s not the strategies and tools that you should become married to; it’s the benefits and the openness to the many ways you can generate these benefits. This is not a discipline game, but rather a matter of choosing to do the things that create these benefits for YOU. This will change over time, but hopefully your desire to Rule Your Impact won’t.
As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts.