Strong leadership is an act of balance. To ensure projects are successful, a team relies on guidance that is both emotionally and logically sound. When the going gets tough, it can be easy to lean to one side. A logic-driven leader might overlook a person's needs for the sake of task completion. While an emotionally-guided leader could focus too much on accommodating everyone that tasks start to slip through the cracks. That’s why truly effective, high performing teams require a balanced approach to leadership.
The First Step In Meditation
There are several ways to approach a meditation practice. From reading a book, to learning from a teacher in-person, listening to audio recordings or downloading a mindfulness-based app.
Regardless of your in-roads to the practice, and no matter the style of meditation, I have consistently noticed that there is one step any and every new meditator must take. This step is all about laying the groundwork and creating stability in order for the mind to be able to meditate.
I dream of the day when I will methodically tackle each task on my to-do-list, crossing items off one-by-one, then feeling the great joy of accomplishment and lightness of being when I finish the last item on my list. Well, if you are a busy parent like me, this dream seems an impossible reality because, despite my best efforts, my list just keeps growing. The problem with endless to-do lists is that with them comes stress, anxiety and a feeling of being overwhelmed wondering, “How will I ever get everything done?”
After many years of list making, I have come up with several strategies that can help busy parents like me tackle their to-do lists and actually feel good, rather than stressed out, at the end of each day.
When life gets really busy it can feel like you’re always catching up on your to-do list. Even when there isn’t much going on, your mind may default to a pattern of restlessness.
For greater mental clarity, it’s important to develop your practice. Here are 4 strategies to help you manage a restless mind:
Have you ever experienced a dream-like state where high quality work flows effortlessly and without hesitation? The kind you’d describe with words like flow state or deep work. More specifically, it’s when your mind balances relaxation with concentration. Here are 3 practices top performing teams use to “get in the zone”:
Find A Shared Purpose
Every task becomes significantly easier - and a lot more fun - when it has a meaningful purpose. Defining the team’s purpose allows team members to be in sync and see how they can best contribute for success. One way you can define this purpose is to understand how the task serves any bigger picture goals. This allows you to keep your team grounded and focused if there’s ever any debate about how to move forward in the project.
Tip: Try to find a strong visual or statement that encapsulates the team’s mission.
Simplify The Process
As human beings we have a habit of over complicating things. Our awesome, high-powered brains are so analytical that they sometimes experience analysis paralysis. This is when your purpose statement comes in handy. Having a clear intention allows you to decide which tasks will move you closer to the bigger picture goal and which ones will not. This will provide you context to assess each problem, so you can deal with it appropriately.
Remove Physical Distractions
There are a proven ways to improve people’s focus at work. The first is to remove any physical distractions. When it’s time to sit down and work, close social media, turn off phone notifications, close your email, and only keep tabs open related to the task at hand. Top performing teams do this because they know It takes an entire 20 minutes to completely refocus after a distraction.
Getting in the zone is no myth exclusive to athletes and superheros. It’s a wonderful, empowering state that anyone has access to. If you’re looking to take your team’s focus to the next level, try applying these 3 strategies.
There are two types of exercise critical to reaching your peak performance in life: mental and physical. Physical exercise is organized, premeditated, focused physical movement that is intended to achieve a set of fitness goals. Common physical exercises include running, weight lifting, swimming, and yoga. With repetition, you get better over time.
Mental exercise is a bit more complicated. Your brain is active 24 hours a day and seven days a week. The brain is a super-powered processing machines constantly analyzing your external environment, while commanding your bodily functions. Your brain also regulates emotions, stores memories, and processes information both consciously and subconsciously. Just like physical activity, there is a distinction between brain activity and mental exercise.
Mental exercises are challenging. They require more cognitive power and eat up more energy. They are also the activities that make you smarter. Some examples include learning a new instrument, studying for a test, strategizing a new business model, and even reading for long periods of time.
Mutually Exclusive or Complementary?
What you may have noticed is that these examples of physical and mental exercise are not mutually exclusive. To play piano, you need to think about which notes to play and move your fingers and feet accordingly. To swim a proper breaststroke, you have to apply a learned technique to move efficiently and get better.
It is important to understand the difference between mental and physical exercise to understand an even more powerful type of exercise - the mind body connection.
The Mind Body Connection
Going as far back as ancient Greece, people believed that the mind and body were deeply intertwined. Medicine and sports were predicated on the idea that our bodies and minds depend on each other for peak performance. This notion was almost lost at the beginning of the seventeenth century, but has come back to popularity. Scientists in modern times have found again and again that the body and mind are a synchronized unit. For example, what separates Olympic athletes from recreational athletes is not their superior bodies; it’s actually their ability to make decisions on the fly, and command their muscles accordingly. Vice versa.
Here’s another example. Think back to the last time you were very hungry and trying to work. Not easy right? A body that’s properly fed, hydrated, and has stable glucose levels feeds a sharper, more focused, and calmer mind.
Though we do not yet fully understand the connectivity between the mind and body, it is a growing topic in a variety of fields from meditation to physiology to fitness. Peak performers, doctors and scientists all want to know how this relationship works. One thing is for sure. If you want to reach your peak performance in life, it’s critical to find a happy balance between mental and physical exercise.
When managing a busy life, the common solution is a to-do list. While writing your thoughts on paper helps make your to-do list actionable, the key is to be kind to yourself as you write.
You Are More Important Than Your Task List
When it comes to productivity, there is one thing you can keep in mind: you have the power to manage your life. We’ve compiled some ways to tackle your to-do list with self-love. This process will make you more productive and happier in the process. Sustainable productivity starts with compassion, and here’s how you can do it everyday:
1. Prioritize Your Tasks
After you’ve listed out all the tasks, center yourself by closing your eyes and taking a three deep breaths. Then write the due dates beside each task. During this process, try to be as calm and rational as possible. Remind yourself: Choosing realistic deadlines means you’ll produce better work that you’re proud of. Once the deadlines are set, chose the top 3 tasks that need to be done and rank them in order. Now tackle them one at a time, starting with the most important.
2. Accept The Work
The one often overlooked yet essential part of productivity is remembering why you want to complete these tasks in the first place. Ask yourself:
What do these items mean to me?
Why do I care so much about them?
How do they fit into the bigger picture?
If any item on the list doesn’t answer these questions - cross the task off.
3. Dive In
If all of the overwhelming thoughts and feelings won’t let up, just start. You’ll feel more productive after working just 20 minutes! Don’t worry about perfection or speed. Instead, be present with what you are working on and focus on the task fully.
Once you get the first task done, it provides momentum for the next one. Celebrate the small wins to give yourself confidence that you can do it.
4. Take Time To Relax
It may sound crazy, but taking time to relax is critical for sustainable productivity. David Allen, author of Getting Things Done - The Art of Stress Free Productivity, sums it up perfectly. He says, “your ability to generate power is directly proportional to your ability to relax.” A clear mind is most effective at making good decisions.
5. Thank Yourself
Sometimes we remember to thank everyone except ourselves. It takes bravery, courage, and persistence to do the work now that supports your future self. Take the time to acknowledge and internalize that effort. Say to yourself: I am doing a great job! Don’t let your mind tell you otherwise.
How do you feel about being connected to your devices around the clock? Does it keep you in the loop and help you get more done? Or is it the opposite and your attention is being pulled in a thousand different directions?
Our devices, while very useful, can sometimes distract us from our desired path. By spending time offline, you can enjoy more clarity, peace of mind, and higher peak performance to thrive in life.
Here’s why going offline makes you more productive:
A Better Night’s Rest
You’re lying in bed, about to go to sleep, and then “beep, beep”... your phone goes off. Sound familiar? Whether it’s a social media notification, a text, or some other reminder, we often check it out. Even though we’re settled in bed, looking at the alert gets our minds racing again. On top of this, studies say the blue light from phone screens interferes with your body’s sleep cycles. All of this combines for a poor night’s rest, and affects tomorrow’s mood, energy level, and productivity.
Focus On What’s Important
Constant connection to our devices makes it all too easy to be distracted - especially when the next notification appears. It takes great self-control and even greater willpower to avoid checking our phone every-time it beeps. After all, it’s our very nature to give attention to something that’s calling for us.
The challenge with ignoring notifications and technology is that it takes focus and energy. Whether you turn your ringer to silent or turn off your devices altogether - more power to you!
Be Present and Focus
By spending more time offline, you can access focus and clarity of mind. For instance, you’ll be present to the people you spend time with. They will appreciate your focus and you’ll be able to appreciate their presence. This can help strengthen your relationships immensely.
An Inspired You
Most importantly, going offline lets your mind rest. Sometimes social media, emails, and notifications can make your mind work harder than it needs to. By taking a break from all that extra information, your mind is free to focus on what really matters to you.
Taking a break from your devices can be very refreshing. Whether it’s for a week or just one day, you might be surprised by your how clear you feel.
How does your company empower a more productive and happier workplace? Many thriving companies are using meditation to empower a community of happy and healthy employees.
Research suggests that meditation has many in-office health benefits - both mental and physical. Meditation has the power to reduce blood pressure, while easing the symptoms of anxiety and depression. It reduces stress, improves listening skills, decision-making skills, and even boosts employee engagement.
Companies Embracing Meditation
Here are 6 NYC companies that are using meditation for a more productive and happier workplace:
When it comes to meditation, employees at Nike are encouraged to “just do it”. The company is very familiar with the fast pace of modern life. To help employees stay clear, focused, and calm in the workplace, in-office meditation and yoga classes are provided for free. In Nike’s New York office, you will find rooms dedicated to napping, praying, and of course, meditating.
Google is known for its social conscious efforts and pioneering the in-office meditation movement. The company has offered meditation courses to its teams since early 2007. These “Search Inside Yourself” sessions still continue to evolve over time. Today, Google offers seven different types of meditation classes to choose from. This includes attention training, self-knowledge and self-mastery, and building mindful mental habits.
CBRE believes that wellness in the workplace is more than a trend, it’s an evolution. All of their offices are being redesigned to be more natural and liveable. The layout includes stretching and relaxation areas, fresh vegetable juice stations, and access to personalized wellness coaching. According to their 2016 report, Wellness In the Workplace, “the idea is to give people an environment where they want to be every day, can focus and where they can be productive.”
Sony first implemented it’s wellness program in 1992. Since then, the program has continued to help employees as well as their domestic partners live healthier, more active lives. By offering free health assessments, Sony is able to provide personalized help in and out of office. At their New York facility, you’ll find an onsite fitness center, a health-focused cafeteria, and weekly farmers market.
The Hospital for Special Surgery in New York has the firm belief that healing patients quickly and thoroughly is the most productive thing they can do. With that in mind, the hospital has integrated meditation and mindfulness in patient healing programs that staff can join too. When people can be aware of their pain with a certain amount of detachment, it removes fear. This allows faster healing and more personal power.
The work environment at Facebook is designed to encourage calmness and creativity. Through weekly in-house meditation sessions and “No Meeting Wednesdays”, the company aims to boost employee morale. Facebook recognizes that happier employees are healthier, more collaborative, and produce better ideas.
Many of the world’s top companies are using to meditation to inspire a happy and healthy workplace. Wishing yours would do the same? Bring the idea to your employer - a healthy company starts with healthy employees.
Think about all you think about in a day -- it’s a lot!
In fact, the renowned Cleveland Clinic says that the average person has over 60,000 thoughts in just one day.
That’s the Monkey Mind. Sound familiar?
We all go through it: thinking too much and feeling like we’re not doing enough. But the real question is, how do we change it?
The most important thing to remember is that mindfulness is a daily practice. It’s about more than flipping a switch and paying attention, it’s about being present, open, and aware.
Thankfully, we’ve got a few easy, everyday tips to help you clear your head and train that monkey mind.
1. Listen to What You’ve Got to Say
If a friend is asking for help, you’d probably ask what’s wrong. Well, you should do the same anytime you find yourself caught in a downward spiral of internal chatter. Listen to your thoughts and respond in practical ways. Jot down a few notes, check your schedule for upcoming to-dos, or create a plan of action for outstanding projects. The more you listen, the less you’ll have to scream.
Now, that said, just because your mind talks doesn’t mean you always have to listen. Meditation is a simple, accessible way for you to become more familiar with you. Find a quiet place where you can sit still for five minutes. Plant your feet, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. As powerful thoughts come to your head -- like why was Smurfette the only female in the Smurf village or how many licks does to take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop? -- allow them to announce themselves then move on, never staying long enough to be explored.
3. Do Something
The best way to do more is to, well, do more! Like idle hands, an idle mind can lead to mischief. Turn off autopilot and get out of your head all in one go. Physical exercise, creative projects, and a good book are just some of the ways you can tame your overthinking. Find out what activities excite you and make a point to include them regularly in your schedule. The sooner you start training your monkey mind, the better it will perform.