This last week was a time for reflection and discovery for me, as I continued my journey of morphing to mindfulness and increased productivity.
I’m aiming for efficient attention switching, rather than wasteful multitasking, and focusing not flitting,
The mindfulness course I’m doing is excellent. It addresses so many of the issues I’ve talked of in my last two posts. (I’ll add the links at the end so I don’t distract you now!) True to form I started the course late and had to catch up. (I was tempted, and failed to resist, signing up for 3 other free courses through Future Learn on completely different topics. Oh well, I’m only just starting this journey.)
The course not only takes you through some guided mindful meditation but explains in detail the reasons for it, and why it works. I’ve tried meditation before, usually just to fall asleep half way through, but this is working for me already.
What is Mindfulness
Mindfulness training teaches you how to be aware and in the present. The aim is to calm and focus you, and to use this to help you perform or learn better. There are other mental and physical health benefits too.
In the early days of meditation it’s expected that your mind will wander but that’s OK. Instead of allowing a thought to take hold you register it, but don’t let it impact you. You gently bring yourself back to the present, without criticizing yourself for the diversion.
You learn to recognize the intrusion of any destructive default thoughts developed in your past, worries about the future, or just when your mind wanders off track.
You practice carrying this through the day; being aware and in the present, focused on the task at hand. Keep working on it and the brain will rewire itself, just like it did when it developed less than efficient thinking.
Benefits of Mindfulness
Research shows that with practice mindfulness charts new pathways within the brain, It increases the areas responsible for awareness, concentration and decision-making, gratitude and compassion, It reduces those responsible for stress. What’s more these changes have been recorded after as little as 8 weeks. If you’d like to find out more Scientific American gives more detail on brain changes
Therapists are using mindfulness for treating depression and anxiety, and for managing chronic pain and tinnitus. (I can’t get to sleep without music or video on because of tinnitus. I can ignore it during the day – well apart from now that I’ve thought of it – 10,000 crickets are now chirping in my brain.)
Google started running mindfulness courses for staff back in 2007, including the very popular “Search inside Yourself”. Other companies are following suit. Chade Meng-Tan, who developed the Google Mindfulness program, takes us through a workshop on YouTube: (It’s 50 minutes long so you might want to save the link for later.)
This week instead of blindly letting my attention wander, I’ve tried to be aware of what I’m doing and thinking. Even though I’ve had various jobs to do, I’ve got so much done, through more efficient attention switching.
I’m learning to be aware of disruptive thoughts and worries and letting go of them. I’m staying on task much better. Even jobs I dislike, such as the seemingly endless processing of washing are more pleasant. What’s more, I’ve been able to set aside time to pursue some personal interests online, without feeling guilty for not doing what I meant to. I’m amazed how quickly it’s working.
It’s ironic in that I’d already been working on some of these techniques with my son who has Fragile X Syndrome and was suffering badly with anxiety. When out he always carries his iPhone and headphones and uses mediation apps to help cut out noise and calm him. Until now it’s been a case of “do as I say, not as I do”!
If you want to find out about Fragile X, and how common it is, check out my Facebook page where I’m posting daily fact images for July’s Fragile X Awareness month. (I’ve already done 23 out of the 31 – whoopee!)
The next Future Learn Mindfulness Course starts in September. If you sign up for updates you’ll find out exactly when and you might find something else to interest you in the meantime. The course was ranked No. 8 best MOOC in the world, by Class Central in 2015 (Massive Open Online Course – those open to unlimited participation).
If you are keen to get started I recommend:
- The new free Smiling Minds Program (Website and App for iPhone, Android). Developed by psychologists, including the Dr Richard Chambers and Dr Craig Hassed, who run the Mindful Course, the program caters for children, adults, educators.
- The exercises in the Little Book of Mindfulness: 10 minutes a day to less stress, more peace on Amazon.
Practical Steps to Stay on Task
I’ve tried various methods to stay on task with limited success. I now realize why. I forgot about them as I allowed my mind to wander unchecked. Hours could go by where I busily flitted around online, or got so caught up with something I enjoyed I spent far too long on it. Procrastination plays a large part I know but I’ll save that for another time.
Now I feel ready to try these productivity methods again.
Using A Timer
Lesly Federici left this comment on my last post. “I’ve mentioned this a million times and will always stand by it as a useful “training” tool to stay on task – a timer. It trains you to pay attention to what you’re doing for a certain amount of time. I have learned a lot just from this simple method about myself and the art of paying attention”
Lesly is an inspiration to me, and many others, through her blog and the PAC program. Her recent post shares her own discovery of mindfulness and what difference it has made to her life: Learning To Accept The Learning Curve
David Merill explains how he prioritizes his tasks with 3 to-do lists; Gold list, A list, and After Hours List.
Kathryn Maclean shares Expert’s Golden Tips on Goal Setting
Here are my first two posts on the topic:
This post is also part of the PAC Blog Carnival Month Project:
Over To You
If you do practice mindfulness what difference has it made to your life?
If not, and after reading this, do you think you would benefit?