Leaders: How to do 8 hours’ worth of work in 4 hours’ time.

The human mind is estimated to wander roughly half of our waking hours. Half! Mindfulness has been shown to stabilize our attention in the present moment. ~Rob Dube (author of do nothing: The most rewarding leadership challenge you’ll ever take)

I thought if I started with “how to do eight hours’ worth of work in four hours’ time” that might get your attention. As I continue to learn about neuroscience and how our brains function, I am more and more convinced that technology has turned us into a very “reactive” culture. This “reactive” way of life impacts both efficiency (what we do or don’t accomplish) and human interaction (relationships).

Technology doesn’t really request our attention; it demands our attention. Pings, dings, alerts, etc. are coming at us every second. In a quick Google search, I learned that on average, people use nine apps daily (TechCrunch) and 30 apps monthly (comScore). Nine apps, every day, clamoring for our attention. Is it any surprise that we now “react” to what’s vying for our attention?

Hence, why 13 percent of US workers reported engaging in mindfulness-enhancing practices. The practice that seems to be included on every list of “mindfulness practices” is do nothing for at least five minutes. Simply sit in silence, focus on your breathing, become comfortable with the silence and stillness. Your mind isn’t processing or thinking, it’s just observing your breath without judging it. When your mind wanders, just gently bring it back to focusing on your breath. That’s it, for five minutes.

Mindfulness can help your mind to wander far less; therefore, giving you more time to really focus, pay attention and thoughtfully respond instead of react to every ping, ding, and alert throughout the day.

But there’s more! My last post was entitled “Leaders don’t tolerate, they celebrate differences!” and it seems to have struck a chord with many readers. I believe that one of a number of things we can do to move from tolerating to celebrating is to be more mindful in our human interactions. When we are tolerating we are likely putting a “judgment” on our differences, consequently the inclination to tolerate. But if we withhold judgment, we would be more likely to celebrate differences.

In do nothing, Dube quotes William James, all the way back to Principles of Psychology published in 1890. James said, “The faculty of bringing back a wandering attention over and over again [what we now call mindfulness] is the very root of judgment, character, and will.” Dube also quotes a Harvard study with business leaders that reported: “the qualities of mindfulness opened up a space in the leaders’ minds helping them to become less reactive and more responsive, affecting other skills such as regulating their emotions, empathizing, focusing on the issues at hand, adapting to situations, and taking broader perspectives into account.”

Talk about killing two birds with one stone! Mindfulness can not only help us become more efficient with our time, it can also raise the bar on our human interactions (i.e., celebrate differences) by regulating our emotions, heightening our ability to empathize, and taking a broader perspective into consideration.

It’s ironic, isn’t it, that we struggle to find five minutes a day that could have an exponential return on investment. How will you become a more mindful leader this week?

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