Mindfulness and Productivity!

The esteemed poet, Robert Frost, once wrote, “two roads divulged in a yellow wood…” he was talking, centuries ago, of how we have to make choices everyday of our lives. Today, however, we know that there are not merely two roads; there is a multitude of options and paths available to us. This creates a paradox of choices which in turn leads to us spending an inordinate amount of time trying to decode what our next move ought to be. We often catch ourselves thinking about our family, work, hobbies, dinner, all in the same line of thought. And if you’re not an experienced multitasker, chances are you will be quite worn out by the end of the day.

But, not to worry, we have a solution. Indeed, this one has been around for quite some time. But before I introduce to you this solution, I ask you to indulge me. Spiritual gurus and meditation experts have always asked their pupils to choose. Choose what they give their attention to. Of course, they talk in terms of theological beliefs. But it can be extended to our world as well. Yes, there is a world of choices to us. In fact, not making a choice is also a choice, as frustrating as that is. But keep in mind that yes, you can filter what you wish to let in.

In the world that we live, there is an insurmountable amount of energy that pours in from various sources- the internet, newspapers, whatsapp groups- you name it. But what if I said that there is a way to not let all of this information overwhelm you?

The solution we are talking about is Mindfulness. To put it simply, it is the conscious practice of the mind in choosing to focus on one task at a time. and it is a tool that comes in handy when we have a lot of tasks, but we want our output to not just be about quantity, but also about good quality. William James, the father of modern psychology, termed it as “the faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again.” Our minds are often like rebellious children- doing what they are told to abstain from. And it is our job to bring it in line. This can only be done with practice and patience.

There are many ways to build a mindful approach to work. One of the most popular is meditation. In this from of meditation, we focus on our breathing. Breathing becomes the sole, most important activity in that time. But as we pay attention to the inhalation and exhalation of breath from our body, we find that our elbow itches, our neighbour plays music while she gardens, three cars drove by in the space of this minute. Then you suddenly remember that you’re supposed to pay attention to your breathing exercises. This happens in cycles and becomes, what we call Mindfulness. In time, you will find that your attention wanders less and less, and that the proverbial itch, has faded away. The best way to achieve Mindfulness is, and I believe Wendell Berry said it best, “Make a place to sit down. Sit down. Be quiet.

There are many benefits to Mindfulness. For one, we become qualitatively productive. The only thing better than getting the job done, is getting the job done well. That way, you satisfy your boss, and very importantly, you reassure yourself that you are capable of doing your work very well. This in turn becomes a strong motivator for you to perform well on future tasks. We live in a world that strongly in multitasking. But we should also keep in mind that multitasking is not for everyone; it is known that when asked to multitask, employees perform worse, while also decreasing memory and delivering a massive hit to our general wellbeing.

Another benefit of practicing mindfulness is that it can greatly reduce the stress caused by eliminating the need to expend crucial energies on making choices. By thinking of one thing at a time, we arrive at decisions much faster without much furrowing of the brow. We find that we are able to prioritise with greater ease, thus allowing us to complete tasks that demand our attention at once. Our tendency to procrastinate is also done away with.

The best thing about this is that we don’t need any special instruments for it. It’s like a gym workout, minus the heavy lifting. The only thing you need is to sit down, breathe, focus, and become mindful