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Lifehack Presents: The Mindfulness Meditation Mini Guide

Lifehack Presents: The Mindfulness Meditation Mini Guide

    We as knowledge workers, creatives, and entrepreneurs have a lot on on our plates like numerous projects, meetings, ideas, phone calls to make, and decisions to come to. Not only that, but there is an entire other side of our life; the personal one. In our personal lives we have a family to take care of, difficult decisions that have to be made about friends and family, as well as making sure that our family is set up for the future.

    If you have been reading Lifehack for any length of time then you probably already have some kind of productivity system in place and have taken advantage of our tips on how to get more and better work done. But even after getting things done, sometimes things don’t feel right. We feel like we are robots. We feel that our lives our unbalanced, that we spend too much time at work and not enough with the ones that we love. We feel that the work we are doing isn’t what we want to be doing. We end up with a feeling of dread and dissatisfaction in our lives.

    This is where the practice of being mindful comes in. Rather than running the rat-race of getting things done in your life; you have to stop and understand what your life really is by becoming and staying mindful.

    What mindfulness is and what it isn’t

    Being mindful means “inclined to be aware” and mindfulness is the act of that. Some would say that practicing mindfulness and using forms of meditation to become more mindful is a Buddhist “thing”. While that is somewhat true, you don’t have to practice Buddhism to practice mindfulness meditation. In fact, there are many members of other religions that practice forms of meditation that moves them towards mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness means that you have to have an open mind and have to be open to a new experience as well as a different way of thinking about things.

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    Becoming mindful does not mean that you go into a trance, become god-like, learn to levitate, or some other crazy thing you may have heard of. Becoming mindful allows you to see yourself and the world around you just as it is without any preconceived notions of what it “should be”.

    It’s hard to talk about becoming mindful without speaking about some form of meditation. What we will discuss here is a sitting meditation that is concentrated on the breath. We won’t delve into the ins and outs of meditation but there are some good resources for that:

    The Benefits

    There are many benefits to practicing mindfulness through your day. Some of these benefits have to deal with overcoming stress and overwhelm, but there are even links from mindfulness meditation to lowering one’s blood pressure, improving memory, and ridding yourself of depression and anxiety.

    These aren’t all of the benefits that we as knowledge workers are looking for (although they are a great to have). What mindfulness meditation gives us is a place we can go to re-frame our world; to accept our current situations and therefore understand ourselves and our surroundings. This is the first step we need to make the right changes in our lives. We see the reality in front of us and based on that new found reality we can make the decisions of where we should be spending our time and attention.

    Not only that, but mindfulness meditation will lower our stress as we try to get things done throughout our day which makes work feel much more natural and less threatening.

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    Get started

    Getting started with mindfulness meditation is easy. Find about 15 minutes of spare time, a quiet room or place you can go to with the least amount of distractions, a pillow for sitting on the ground (or a chair if that isn’t possible), a timer of some sort (there are a lot of good ones for your smartphone), and no expectations of what will or won’t happen. We need to approach meditation and the practice of mindfulness with as little preconceived notions as possible. The less we expect from practicing and being mindful, the better it will “work”.

    Sit down in your quite room in a comfortable position, set your timer, and close your eyes. All you need to do now is be aware of the breath that is coming in and out of your nose. Breath in slow through your nose and concentrate on how the air feels hitting your nostrils. While breathing in, breath deep through your stomach, not your chest. As the breath in starts to slow down concentrate on the split second between the end of your breath in and the beginning of your breath out. Then feel the breath going out of your nostril. Once again, concentrate on the split second that your breath changes from going out to coming back in.

    The reason that you concentrate on your breath is because it is something real; it is reality. You will notice as you sit there for an extended period of time thoughts will enter your brain like crazy. The idea is not to “block” or “stop” your thoughts from happening. That will lead to frustration. Instead, concentrate on the reality of your situation and allow your thoughts to enter and exit your mind as your breath enters and exits your nostrils.

    Sit and meditate and breath for the set amount of time. When your bell or alarm goes off, slowly open your eyes and go about your day.

    This is the practice of mindfulness meditation in a nutshell.

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    Some issues

    The above sounds easy, right? Just sit and concentrate on your breath. Not so much.

    Many people that try to start a mindfulness practice find themselves abandoning it after one or even a few days of practice. Mostly because meditation and being mindful is hard as many different issues can come up:

    Being uncomfortable

    Sometimes people tend to get uncomfortable with the thoughts that come up or even physically uncomfortable while they are seated.

    When it comes to the thoughts that come up a good rule of thumb is first to move your attention back to your breath and to let the thought go through it’s natural progression through your mind while you aren’t attached to it. The thought can keep coming up, especially to someone that isn’t “trained” in mindfulness yet. If it is completely uncomfortable then you may need to stop your practice for the day and come back at a later time to try again.

    When it comes to physical uncomfortableness you may need to move your body a little bit or find another position that is more comfortable for you. Something to remember though is to feel some of the minor pain or restlessness or your body as you sit there as it is reality. You of course don’t want to cause yourself injury, but there will always be small issues that come up with our bodies as we sit. Try to sit through them.

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    Expectations

    Going into a meditation and mindfulness practice you want to have the least amount of expectations as possible, but after some weeks or even months of practice you may find yourself expecting some sort of revelation and peace in your everyday life. When this doesn’t happen you will probably give up on the practice all together because it “doesn’t work”.

    While meditation and mindfulness will end up bringing you peace, understanding, and lower overall stress levels, it doesn’t mean that you will experience it immediately. Remember we are shooting for feeling reality for the way that it is. Keep moving forward and shift your expectations.

    Where we are going

    Okay. So you sit and meditate every day. You concentrate on your breath and live in the moment. But why?

    Well, as we continue our mindfulness practice some peculiar things will start to happen. As you live your life and do your work throughout the day you may find yourself slowing down and concentrating on your breath as you become stressed or overwhelmed. This will ground you and help you realize what the current reality is. Rather than reading an email and then instantly fantasizing about what it “could” mean, you can step back and read it for what it is and not get excited or upset.

    The projects that you have been working on (or haven’t been working on) start to look a little different. You may be able to slow down and ask yourself, “why am I doing this?” If the answer isn’t apparent you may just want to cut the project entirely. In the past, cutting or declining projects may have been perceived as a weakness. After seeing things for the way they are you can simply see that these project may not interest your or may not help you further your career in any real way. You start to see the reality of all situations in work and life.

    Practicing mindfulness start a chain reaction in your life. The simplest of tasks (sit and concentrate on your breath) can turn your life around because you bring that simplicity into everything you do. That’s why we as entrepreneurs, creatives, and knowledge workers need to practice mindfulness.

    (Photo credit: Face huge stress, meditation via Shutterstock)

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    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on November 19, 2019

    20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

    20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

    Are you usually punctual or late? Do you finish things within the time you stipulate? Do you hand in your reports/work on time? Are you able to accomplish what you want to do before deadlines? Are you a good time manager?

    If your answer is “no” to any of the questions above, that means you’re not managing your time as well as you want. Here are 20 time management tips to help you manage time better:

    1. Create a Daily Plan

    Plan your day before it unfolds. Do it in the morning or even better, the night before you sleep. The plan gives you a good overview of how the day will pan out. That way, you don’t get caught off guard. Your job for the day is to stick to the plan as best as possible.

    2. Peg a Time Limit to Each Task

    Be clear that you need to finish X task by 10am, Y task by 3pm, and Z item by 5:30pm. This prevents your work from dragging on and eating into time reserved for other activities.

    3. Use a Calendar

    Having a calendar is the most fundamental step to managing your daily activities. If you use outlook or lotus notes, calendar come as part of your mailing software.

    I use it. It’s even better if you can sync your calendar to your mobile phone and other hardwares you use – that way, you can access your schedule no matter where you are. Here’re the 10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track .

    Find out more tips about how to use calendar for better time management here: How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space

    4. Use an Organizer

    An organizer helps you to be on top of everything in your life. It’s your central tool to organize information, to-do lists, projects, and other miscellaneous items.

    These Top 15 Time Management Apps and Tools can help you organize better, pick one that fits your needs.

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    5. Know Your Deadlines

    When do you need to finish your tasks? Mark the deadlines out clearly in your calendar and organizer so you know when you need to finish them.

    But make sure you don’t make these 10 Common Mistakes When Setting Deadlines.

    6. Learn to Say “No”

    Don’t take on more than you can handle. For the distractions that come in when you’re doing other things, give a firm no. Or defer it to a later period.

    Leo Babauta, the founder of Zen Habits has some great insights on how to say no: The Gentle Art of Saying No

    7. Target to Be Early

    When you target to be on time, you’ll either be on time or late. Most of the times you’ll be late. However, if you target to be early, you’ll most likely be on time.

    For appointments, strive to be early. For your deadlines, submit them earlier than required.

    Learn from these tips about how to prepare yourself to be early, instead of just in time.

    8. Time Box Your Activities

    This means restricting your work to X amount of time. Why time boxing is good for you? Here’re 10 reasons why you should start time-boxing.

    You can also read more about how to do time boxing here: #5 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity.

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    9. Have a Clock Visibly Placed Before You

    Sometimes we are so engrossed in our work that we lose track of time. Having a huge clock in front of you will keep you aware of the time at the moment.

    10. Set Reminders 15 Minutes Before

    Most calendars have a reminder function. If you have an important meeting to attend, set that alarm 15 minutes before.

    You can learn more about how reminders help you remember everything in this article: The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    11. Focus

    Are you multi-tasking so much that you’re just not getting anything done? If so, focus on just one key task at one time. Multitasking is bad for you.

    Close off all the applications you aren’t using. Close off the tabs in your browser that are taking away your attention. Focus solely on what you’re doing. You’ll be more efficient that way.

    Lifehack’s CEO has written a definitive guide on how to focus, learn the tips: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

    12. Block out Distractions

    What’s distracting you in your work? Instant messages? Phone ringing? Text messages popping in?

    I hardly ever use chat nowadays. The only times when I log on is when I’m not intending to do any work. Otherwise it gets very distracting.

    When I’m doing important work, I also switch off my phone. Calls during this time are recorded and I contact them afterward if it’s something important. This helps me concentrate better.

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    Find more tips on how to minimize distractions to achieve more in How to Minimize Distraction to Get Things Done

    13. Track Your Time Spent

    When you start to track your time, you’re more aware of how you spend your time. For example, you can set a simple countdown timer to make sure that you finish a task within a period of time, say 30 minutes or 1 hour. The time pressure can push you to stay focused and work more efficiently.

    You can find more time tracking apps here and pick one that works for you.

    14. Don’t Fuss About Unimportant Details

    You’re never get everything done in exactly the way you want. Trying to do so is being ineffective.

    Trying to be perfect does you more harm than good, learn here about how perfectionism kills your productivity and how to ditch the perfectionism mindset.

    15. Prioritize

    Since you can’t do everything, learn to prioritize the important and let go of the rest.

    Apply the 80/20 principle which is a key principle in prioritization. You can also take up this technique to prioritize everything on your plate: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    16. Delegate

    If there are things that can be better done by others or things that are not so important, consider delegating. This takes a load off and you can focus on the important tasks.

    When you delegate some of your work, you free up your time and achieve more. Learn about how to effectively delegate works in this guide: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

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    17. Batch Similar Tasks Together

    For related work, batch them together.

    For example, my work can be categorized into these core groups:

    1. writing (articles, my upcoming book)
    2. coaching
    3. workshop development
    4. business development
    5. administrative

    I batch all the related tasks together so there’s synergy. If I need to make calls, I allocate a time slot to make all my calls. It really streamlines the process.

    18. Eliminate Your Time Wasters

    What takes your time away your work? Facebook? Twitter? Email checking? Stop checking them so often.

    One thing you can do is make it hard to check them – remove them from your browser quick links / bookmarks and stuff them in a hard to access bookmarks folder. Replace your browser bookmarks with important work-related sites.

    While you’ll still checking FB/Twitter no doubt, you’ll find it’s a lower frequency than before.

    19. Cut off When You Need To

    The number one reason why things overrun is because you don’t cut off when you have to.

    Don’t be afraid to intercept in meetings or draw a line to cut-off. Otherwise, there’s never going to be an end and you’ll just eat into the time for later.

    20. Leave Buffer Time In-Between

    Don’t pack everything closely together. Leave a 5-10 minute buffer time in between each tasks. This helps you wrap up the previous task and start off on the next one.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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