Can mindfulness improve your focus as an entrepreneur?
A million things are going on in your life. Between supplier meetings, client emails and trying to do all of the things that we’re told to do in order to be successful (networking, drinking 65 oz of water a day, reading, budgeting, keeping active, decluttering), we could see how adding mindfulness to the pile could sound like some new-age hippy nonsense you don’t have the mental space to budget for.
But what if mindfulness could be the skill that helps you to achieve those other things more calmly and effectively?
The idea that mindfulness can support business leaders and entrepreneurs to succeed is nothing new. Arianna Huffington, Padmasree Warrior, and the #1 queen herself, Oprah Winfrey, have all talked publically about how transformative the practice has been for them.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the simple act of being present; being aware of our intentions, sensations, and environment, rather than being reactive or overwhelmed. We pay attention to our thoughts and feelings–this is key–without judgment and we don’t obsess about what’s happened in the past or what will happen in the future. The practice has roots in Buddhist meditation but can be practiced secularly.
It’s easy to conflate mindfulness with meditation, but we can think of them as two sides of the same coin. Experts Ed and Deb Shapiro say, “Mindfulness is the awareness of ‘some-thing,’ while meditation is the awareness of ‘no-thing.'” A consistent meditation practice enriches a mindfulness practice and vice versa.
How can it change my business?
Communicate clearly while under pressure.
Studies have shown that mindfulness can reduce cortisol levels in the brain, allowing you to take a more rational approach to hot conversations.
Feel more creative.
According to the Mindfulness Society, when we stop feeling so obsessing about ourselves and how we’re perceived, we no longer dwell in regions of the brain that do that narrative default-mode thinking. Mindfulness-based stress reduction has been shown to “light up other areas, more lateral areas, where there’s no more story of “me.””
More effective decision-making.
If you’re focused on the task at hand, you’re less likely to make impulsive decisions. Sometimes entrepreneurs can suffer from ‘shiny object syndrome‘ and jump into exciting new ventures without assessing their long-term sustainability. Being mindful allows you to recognize and assess how you’re feeling when a new opportunity arises and tread more carefully.
Things are bound to go wrong. You can’t create something new and reach your full potential without making a few gaffes along the way. In these situations, mindfulness can help you ground yourself by slowing down, listening intently and being kind to yourself.
How do I get started?
Start a gentle meditation practice.
If you’d like to get started with meditation but don’t know where to begin, Headspace is a great app that uses plain language, is simple to follow and has a free 10-day free introduction.
Take on one task at a time.
The multitasking fallacy was shattered a long time ago. We know now that we can be much more productive if we focus on one thing at a time. It’s difficult to truly concentrate for more than 20 minutes on one task though, so be sure not to set yourself a timer and build in short stretch breaks between jobs.
Replace an old habit with a new one.
It’s always easier to replace an old habit than to try and shoehorn a new one into your life. We’re guessing as entrepreneurs you’ve already got your morning routine on lockdown. Maybe you’re cramming in lunch or dinner at your desk. If you take 20 minutes browsing the internet over your soup, try replacing it with a short walking meditation and mindful eating.
Be kind to yourself.
Made a bad call? Lost an important email in the throng? Use the practice of non-judgment to objectively analyze your situation, without lingering on self-blame.
Practice mindful listening with music.
Pocket Mindfulness’ Alfred James encourages that mindful listening can begin with music. He suggests finding a quiet place to put in your headphones and “explore every aspect of track. Even if the music isn’t to your liking at first, let go of your dislike and give your awareness full permission to climb inside the track and dance among the sound waves.”
Make a gratitude list.
Bringing another list into a life that’s so full of to-dos and must-dos might sound like a chore, but it might help to approach it as a joy. A gratitude list doesn’t have to be formal, you don’t have to get up 15 minutes earlier or stay up 15 minutes later to write down the things you’re grateful for in cursive in a beautifully bound notebook on your nightstand. You might just like to add a note in your phone every now and again when you feel thankful for something in your life.
Start fresh each day.
There might be times when you’re feeling like you’re doing it wrong, or that it isn’t working as well as you’d hoped. It is a daily practice, and you’re doing wonderfully just by trying.
Resilience: Powerful Practices for Bouncing Back from Disappointment, Difficulty, and Even Disaster By Linda Graham, New World Library
Mindfulness for Dummies: By Shamash Alidina Page, For Dummies
The Mindful Day: Practical Ways to Find Focus, Calm, and Joy from Morning to Evening
By Laurie J. Cameron, National Geographic
Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world, By Mark Williams and Danny Penman, Piatkus Books
Mindfulness in Plain English: By Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, Wisdom Publications