3 Strategies to Think. Consider. Mull it over. Breathe…
Do you take the time to absorb new information and let it percolate in your brain awhile before rushing to judgement, making a decision or throwing together a blog post, a tweet, an SMS or comment somewhere?
At breakfast this morning my wife, 13 year old son and I were in a conversation about television. In a poor attempt at grabbing his attention, I tried to set context for him on what is was like for me at 13 — three networks, one independent TV channel, no recorded media — and what it was like for him now.
We have DVD’s, DirecTV with hundreds of channels, game systems, books galore, two daily newspapers, and an Internet with essentially “millions” of channels. He smiled and said, “Whatever Dad” and went on with conversations about his skiing adventure this weekend! He made it clear that he LOVES all the choice and ENJOYS the constant interruptions his mobile phone, IM, Skype, XBox Live teams give him.
I submit that it is VERY hard right now to turn off the river of news, shut out the Twitter’s, the social network alerts, SMS, IM, Skype calls, emails, and all the other interruptions and make 100% certain that you have the time to think, to consider, mull stuff over and just breathe.
What I try hard to do with this blog — and life in general — is to ferret out the meaning behind a person’s incentives, company/product direction or strategic announcement before going off half-cocked to write about it and/or get involved in conversations. Connecting the dots, if you will.
I frequently turn off every possible interruption in order to buffer myself against intrusions that are accelerating and demanding ever higher levels of my attention. It’s the only way I can be assured that I’ll be able to place myself in a position of contemplation before taking action.
Here are three strategies that you can do right now to set yourself up to be more contemplative. It will pay off and I guarantee it (or your money will be cheerfully refunded):
1) Set aside two, twenty minute segments each day to meditate. No, you don’t have to chant, touch your index finger to your thumb or wear saffron robes while sitting on a rug. Meditating is super-simple and it effectively quiets your mind: put in your plug-in headphones or buy cheap earplugs and do nothing but sit in a place of no distractions and breathe. Just focus on your breathing and let whatever happens, happen.
This practice has such a HUGE impact in my life that I’m still stunned that anyone else even questions doing it. Some have said to me, “Oh sure Borsch, forty minutes of meditation, a half hour of exercise, I just don’t have the time” but my comeback is do 10 minutes, do it at your desk for a 15 minute break, whatever.
The payoff is huge and besides, are you in charge of your mind and body or is everything and everyone else?
If you need to satisfy your analytical left-brain that meditation is worthwhile then consider these two sources: TIME magazine had this writeup on meditation in August of 2005 which clearly and objectively discusses the science of meditation:
But the current interest is as much medical as it is cultural. Meditation is being recommended by more and more physicians as a way to prevent, slow or at least control the pain of chronic diseases like heart conditions, AIDS, cancer and infertility. It is also being used to restore balance in the face of such psychiatric disturbances as depression, hyperactivity and attention-deficit disorder (ADD). In a confluence of Eastern mysticism and Western science, doctors are embracing meditation not because they think it’s hip or cool but because scientific studies are beginning to show that it works, particularly for stress-related conditions. “For 30 years meditation research has told us that it works beautifully as an antidote to stress,” says Daniel Goleman, author of Destructive Emotions, a conversation among the Dalai Lama and a group of neuroscientists. “But what’s exciting about the new research is how meditation can train the mind and reshape the brain.” Tests using the most sophisticated imaging techniques suggest that it can actually reset the brain, changing the point at which a traffic jam, for instance, sets the blood boiling. Plus, compared with surgery, sitting on a cushion is really cheap.
The other is National Public Radio which did this piece on Science Explores Meditations Effect on the Brain and said this:
“Scientists are taking advantage of new technologies to see exactly what goes on inside the brains of Buddhist monks and other so-called “Olympian” meditators — individuals who meditate intensively and regularly. The neuroscientists hypothesize that regular meditation actually alters the way the brain is wired, and that these changes could be at the heart of claims that meditation can improve health and well-being.“
2) Be rigorous about turning off all interruptions when you need to get stuff done or to think before you act. Early in my career, I had programmers I worked with be very, very clear about what happened when I burst in to their area with some miscellaneous question, comment or crisis. “It takes me about 20 minutes to get “in the groove” and settle in to a rhythm to program, so if you interrupt me twice per hour I get NOTHING done.” This explained why many of the good ones worked during the night when everyone had gone home and why some companies I worked for had code-locks on the door so people couldn’t wander in to the developers area whenever they wanted.
Be clear with your staff, your boss and others that certain defined times of the day you’re turning off all interruptions. The hour before lunch and, say, 3-4pm are perfect.
The benefit? Your productivity and ability to be contemplative will soar. This is one reason why people new to telecommuting often sing its praises, “I am SO much more productive” or “I can actually think” or “I have to now be deliberate on getting myself out of my quiet, contemplative environment and out into the noise“. I submit that if you’re smart about managing interruptions and taking control of yourself and your attention, you’ll enjoy these same sorts of benefits regardless if you’re working on the factory floor or in an office.
3) Lastly, don’t join everything! In a day when there are hundreds of social networks, video channels, Web 2.0 offerings, news and information lists and more, if you sign up for everything then everyone will send you stuff. You’ll be notified and pinged and alerted and emailed and on and on.
I know it’s tough NOT to join the latest-n-greatest. To sign up for the hot new thing. In my work, I have to know about and experience all of these offerings and it’s amazing how tough it is to get OFF these lists.
I use the Gmail “yourname and the + sign” strategy. Google allows you to use (in my case my username is sborsch) your username and a plus sign like this: firstname.lastname@example.org which I’d use to sign up for the hot new offering. If I start to get spammed or this email gets propagated around the ‘net (which happens far too frequently as sites give “their partners and affiliates” the contact lists) I can instantly and easily setup a filter in Gmail that either instantly deletes anything sent to that particular email OR lets me label and archive it right away so I don’t have to ever deal with it.
Take charge of your brain, of your attention, of your ability to think and contemplate. You’ll be very glad you did!