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The Top 10 Things I Learned Meditating for 35 Hours over One Week

The Top 10 Things I Learned Meditating for 35 Hours over One Week

I remember it vividly.

About four years ago I was at a tea shop reading a book on meditation, when a Buddhist monk walked in and sat across the room from me.

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    As I read, I occasionally looked up at him, and saw that he was mindfully sipping on a cup of tea. He would slowly bring the cup to his mouth, smell the tea, then drink it slowly, savoring its taste, and slowly rest his arm back down again. He drank it so slowly that it took him about an hour to finish the small cup.

    I remember thinking, “What a complete waste of time.”

    After all, he could have gotten so much more done in that hour than just drinking tea. What if he picked up a book? What if he listened to a podcast or a few TED talks and learned something new? What if he invited one of his other monk friends to join him? He could have been so much more productive.

    Today, I think the exact opposite.

    Four years later – yesterday, in fact – I sat alone in my kitchen mindfully sipping a cup of tea. Like the monk, it took me about an hour, but I truly couldn’t imagine a better use of my time.

    Meditation and mindfulness look absolutely pointless on the surface, and that’s because on the surface, they are. The real magic of meditation happens on the inside. Meditation and mindfulness completely reprogram your mind. Both practices increase the blood flow to your brain, calm you down, and allow you to better handle stress. They also make your brain younger by increasing your brain’s grey matter, and help your mind defragment its thoughts. They’ve even been shown to boost your test scores. Not to mention that they make you feel freaking awesome.

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    Over the past seven days, I meditated for a whopping 35 hours, and diving deep into the practice, I observed its myriad benefits first hand. Here are the top 10 things I learned about productivity meditating for 35 hours last week.

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        10. If you don’t want to meditate, try integrating mindfulness into your daily life.

        Over the last seven days, I experimented with countless ways to integrate meditation and mindfulness into my daily life. I think a lot of people are put off by sitting meditation because on the surface it seems foreign and complicated (even though it isn’t – I wrote a great guide to getting started here). If you don’t want to practice sitting meditation, I think you can reap most of the benefits of meditation when you actively seek out ways to integrate mindfulness into your daily life. Last week I mindfully: shaved, showered, walked, snacked, drank tea, and a lot more. In a comment on one of my posts, Ellen Symons also mentioned a few other great activities to bring the practice to, like during yoga, a massage, and even mowing the lawn.

        Seeking  ways to integrate mindfulness into your daily life will allow you to receive the benefits of meditation, and will benefit you even more if you already meditate.

        9. You can do any task that doesn’t involve thinking, mindfully.

        When experimenting with different activities to bring mindfulness to, I found that some activities were easier to focus on than others. The main thing I discovered is that the less thinking an activity involves, the easier it is to be mindful of your actions. If you’re looking for activities to bring mindfulness to, start with the ones that don’t involve a lot of thinking, like cleaning or washing the dishes.

        8. Meditation makes you way better at playing pool.

        Or any other sport, for that matter. Pool is a game (sport?) that requires incredible concentration, patience, mindfulness, and focus. Most days I play a solo game of pool to mull over ideas and plan things for A Year of Productivity, and I was surprised to find myself sinking more shots than ever during this experiment.

        A lot of people consider sports to be 90% mental and 10% physical, and I’m confident that if you actively play sports, meditation will help you perform. It’s no surprise that athletes like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter, and many others all have a meditation ritual.

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          7. Meditation clears your brain’s RAM.

          A computer’s RAM is like its short-term memory. By having a singular focus during meditation, you clear your mind of thought, which not only works out your ‘attention muscle,’ but also clears your brain’s RAM.

          This by itself is a good enough reason to practice meditation. Clearing your brain’s RAM reduces your stress and allows you to focus better throughout the day.

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          6. Meditation lets you work smarter, instead of just harder.

          During the experiment, I made sure to work as much as I could so I had a way to measure how meditation affected my productivity.

          Interestingly, I found that meditation made it much easier for me to identify the highest leverage activities in both my work and personal lives, which made it possible for me to work smarter, instead of just harder.

          I think there are two ways to get more done: put in more time and effort, which is a crappy way to get more done, or identify the highest leverage activities so you can work smarter instead of just harder. Meditation lets you step back from the things you do so you can see the ‘whole forest’ instead of just the trees, and work smarter instead of harder.

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              5. The bigger something is, the easier it is to put off.

              When I started the experiment, I made an effort to group my daily meditation time into one big chunk so I could tackle it all at once, but I frequently found myself procrastinating because I made such a big commitment to myself.

              When I broke down my meditation time down into a few smaller, easier-to-manage chunks, I procrastinated much less, and got a lot more done.

              Breaking other activities down into smaller, easier-to-digest chunks helps a ton with procrastination. If you’re studying, schedule time to just study one chapter instead of five. Similarly, the idea of cleaning up your basement may seem daunting (especially if it’s going to take you a day or two), but cleaning your basement for only 10 minutes is much more manageable. It’s a much smaller chunk of time, but you’ll actually do it. And, when you get started, you’ll likely want to keep going!

              4. You enjoy food twice as much when you eat it twice as slow.

              If you’re anything like me, when you eat something good, you want to eat it all right away, now! Fast! But that’s a bit backwards. When you really look at the amount of enjoyment you receive from eating something, you realize that you receive pretty much twice the enjoyment from eating it twice as slow.

              When I took the time to mindfully eat food during the experiment, that food was the tastiest food I’ve had in years, not only because I mindfully focused on the food’s flavor and texture, but also because I slowed down to actually enjoy and taste what I was eating.

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              If you want to get more enjoyment out of your food, eat slower. Better yet, practice eating mindfully. The practice will also help you eat less because you won’t lose track of how much you eat, and because your mind has more time to register that it’s full.

              3. Meditation turns you into a more compassionate and patient person.

              When I was writing the first draft of this article, I was sitting next to my girlfriend and she added to the end of the title for this section, “and a better, more patient boyfriend!” Last week I found myself becoming more caring, patient, and compassionate as the week went on. I helped out with things I didn’t before, cleaned up when I didn’t have to, did favors for strangers just because I could, and found myself listening to the people around me much more attentively.

              Patience is a quality I work hard to cultivate in myself, especially when it comes to dealing with people. Meditating for 35 hours helped me become more considerate, compassionate, caring, and patient than I have been in a long time.

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                2. Never wish away time. You have a set amount of it, and you don’t get more.

                My mind travels to weird places when I meditate, and over the last week I thought a lot about time. As my mind revved down during each meditation session, with each passing meditation bell I could almost feel time ticking away. Last week I thought a lot about how little time I have.

                While there are a lot of ways to get more out of your time, there are a lot fewer ways to get more time. Meditating for 35 hours forced me to step back from my actions, and allowed my mind to process what the most important elements of my life are. If you’re looking to do the same, I couldn’t recommend meditation more.

                1. Your actions are your only true belongings.

                Every single action of yours falls into one of three buckets: actions you have already done, actions you’re doing now, and actions you’re going to do. The brain glitch that nearly everyone has is that they spend most of their time in either the past or the future; thinking about the stupid or great things they’ve done in the past, or thinking about the things they’re going to do.

                But here’s the thing: the past has already happened, and the future is just an idea of what you think things are going to be like (and if you’re anything like me, you’re wrong 75% of the time). The actions that you perform in any given moment shape your future, and create your past. The present is the only time that ever actually exists.

                There’s a Buddhist parable that says that your actions are your only true belongings, and that they’re the ground upon which you stand. I lived that parable last week, and can say now that I can’t think of a sentiment more true. Meditation trains you to focus on the present moment, and maybe even more importantly, teaches you that never have to (or can) deal with more than one moment at a time.

                A quick walk through the forest.

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                  Imagine you’re walking through the picture above.

                  It’s a gorgeous autumn day; not too hot or cold, and there’s a light breeze ruffling the leaves as you walk by them. You get lost in how the branches are moving, how the day is so perfect and calm, and gaze up in awe about how beautiful your life is.

                  Now imagine that instead of walking along the trail, you’re driving down it. You pass the exact same trees – whooooosh – but they mean a lot less to you. There’s no depth to them. Sure, you might take a second and think about how nice they are, but even if you did, you definitely wouldn’t hear the wind rustling the leaves, or notice the Rainbow Lorikeet perched on one of the branches.

                  You might not even notice the trees at all.

                  ————

                  A lot of people have a go, go, go, faster, faster, faster view of their work. They want to do more, in less time, and get from point A to B as fast as possible. And a lot of the articles on this site are about just that.

                  But there’s also a flip side to productivity that brings meaning to how productive you are, and this is the side of productivity that I explored last week.

                  Productivity is completely meaningless if you don’t reflect on how it makes your life better and more meaningful. It might seem strange that sitting on your butt and doing almost nothing can make you more productive, but I personally can’t think of an activity that will bring as much perspective and meaning to your life as meditation. (Besides maybe being a parent, which I haven’t done yet. And hopefully won’t anytime soon!)

                  Meditation, unlike a fast drive through the picture above, is slow, calm, and deliberate. It brings meaning to what you do, helps you discover who you are, and in my opinion, it’s one of the best gifts you could give yourself.

                  If you don’t already practice meditation, I highly recommend it.

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                  Last Updated on September 18, 2020

                  How to Be More Self-Assured and Get More Done During the Week

                  How to Be More Self-Assured and Get More Done During the Week

                  Time is a great leveler isn’t it? We all have the same 24 hours in a day. Even if you’re self-assured, the day may never feel quite long enough.

                  Why is it that some people can be so much more productive and achieve so much more in a typical day, while others struggle to achieve anything apart from feeling time crunched and overwhelmed?

                  Everyone I know and work with wants to make the best use of their time. They want to learn how to be more self-assured, happier, and work less—all while growing in their career.

                  How effectively we use our time—and how we actually work in our business—can make a huge difference to the amount we accomplish in a day or week. It can also make us more focused and more confident.

                  Do you want to have more thinking and creative time? Do you want to spend more time working on your business rather than working at or in your business? In this article, we’ll show you how.

                  Get More Done by Gaining Confidence

                  What if you had a strategy for making the best use of your time that brings you more joy and allows you to focus on the biggest activities and opportunities in your business? You may find the following outline below to be helpful:

                  1. Create an Exciting Vision

                  If you don’t know where you’re going, how do you know when you get there?

                  You want to be more productive and spend more time getting the right stuff done. Well, you need to create a compelling and exciting vision of your future.

                  What does this future look like? How will you feel when you get there?

                  Creating a new vision, especially one that is a lot bigger than where you are right now, has a way of igniting your passion. It may be something that feels hard to achieve, but every step you take towards that bigger vision will certainly build your confidence.

                  Create a vision board to feel more self-assured.

                    Commitment to this vision, and accomplishing continual daily progress depends on your ability to look at any situation you’re faced with or currently in, feel self-assured, and see something bigger ahead.

                    Also, when you know where you’re headed, you will instinctively start to see all the new opportunities and connections that will get you there.

                    Make a vision map to get you started on the path to better productivity. This doesn’t have to be fully actualized, but you should know at least what direction you are heading.

                    2. Build a Strategic Plan

                    Once you have your future vision mapped out, the next step is to build a strategic plan to get you there.

                    Your future vision may be for 3 years or 5 years, or you may choose a longer time frame. Any timeframe over 3 years may feel like a long way away.

                    You may wonder how you are ever going to feel confident and motivated on this bigger future years from now when you feel as though you have so much to accomplish today.

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                    The first step is to decide on some specific goals for the next 12 months. Don’t list too many or you may begin to feel overwhelmed.

                    The magic number for me and my clients is usually five annual goals.

                    These are big goals that will create massive change in your business and life and bridge your current situation to your bigger future; accomplishing these goals one by one will help to increase your confidence on a daily basis.

                    3. Get on Goal Planning

                    Get yourself a piece of blank paper and a pen and divide the paper into 4 columns: A, B, C, and D.

                    Ask yourself the question: What is great in my business and life right now? Write these things down in Column A. This might be a couple of things, five things, ten things, whatever feels right to you.

                    Then ask yourself: What things are happening right now that I don’t want in my future? Write these things down in Column B.

                    This is your opportunity to take a step back and look at the things that are simply not working. You may list people that are bringing you down or projects that you don’t want to work on any more. Maybe you’ll include a service offering that’s going nowhere. It could be the people you’re working with, or it could be your pricing.

                    Now, let’s look at your personal strengths. Write down everything that you’re great at in Column C.

                    These could be things that you’re doing right now and having success with. It could also be things you know you’re awesome at but you’re not spending enough time on.

                    Column D is for your biggest opportunities. Is there a new service/product you could offer your ideal customers? Is there a new innovation you could bring to market? Just take some time out and really think and list these things in Column D.

                    Once you’ve analyzed everything you’ve written down, take some time to really think about what goals you want to set for your business and life in the next 12 months.

                    4. Set Outcomes to Build Confidence

                    You now have your goals, and you’ll feel self-assured and raring to go. They are written down and you’re committed to achieving them. You feel self-assured and motivated.

                    But how do you ensure that you stay on the correct course to achieve these goals?

                    Managing and juggling day-to-day projects can get in the way. Dealing with problems can get in the way. Staying on top of orders, managing cash flow, and handling day-to-day stuff can move your ship off course.

                    You want to be productive and achieve your goals, but you also need to ensure the day and week runs smoothly.

                    One way to ensure this happens is to set 90 Day Outcome Goals; within those Outcome Goals, put some specific process goals that need to be undertaken.

                    Let’s say you want to get 10 more speaking jobs in the next 90 days, and you know that you typically convert 50% of opportunities.

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                    Therefore, your process goal needs to be to have 20 conversations in the next 90 Days to deliver the 10 new pieces of work. You will then work out who you can have those conversations with.

                    It’s smart to overshoot, so you will more easily hit your target. This is a clear plan to work through because with every win, your confidence will grow.

                    5. Completely Commit to Your Success

                    If you are not truly committed to achieving your goals, then chances are that you won’t reach them.

                    Motivation can only take you so far. It is the intentional commitment[1] and emotional investment in your future success that will move you forward.

                    Think back to any time that you really committed to achieving something. There must have been a reason you actually achieved what you set out to achieve. What motivated you?

                    Were you fully invested? Why did it matter? Did you have to be really courageous to achieve it?

                    How did it feel when you achieved it? What difference did it make?

                    When have you felt truly self-assured? When you are committed to something, then you are propelled into action. Your mindset is focused, and your body follows; you want to get it done.

                    And, when you do get it done, your confidence goes through the roof. You feel a level of certainty in achieving the goal you set out to accomplish.

                    6. Focus on Your Strengths

                    To feel self-assured and build up the confidence needed to achieve our biggest goals, we need to focus on our strengths.

                    What are you best at? What are your unique skills? You want to spend as much time as you can working in the areas that you’re great at.

                    Multiply your strengths. These areas are where you add the biggest value. They often bring you the biggest amount of joy, and you feel more and more confident when you are using your unique skills.

                    If you think there is a specific capability you need to learn or be better at, spend more focused time in that area.

                    Many of us want to do it all. We want to be good at everything. We want to offer a lot of services. But, in reality, there are some very specific things we are great at; nobody is good at everything!

                    Spending more time adding value in the areas where you excel can create breakthrough results and boost confidence.

                    7. Embrace the Present

                    Sometimes we spend so much time thinking about the future or worrying about the past that we forget the present moment[2].

                    Are you spending most of your day reacting to things, or have you taken the time to think about what your perfect day looks like?

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                    We all have the opportunity to create rather than react, to decide what we do with our day. All of our future success can be created in the present moment if we just take a step back and take action.

                    Sometimes, doing it now is more important than doing it perfectly. There are hidden opportunities in every moment. We need to make sure we don’t miss them if we want to feel self-assured.

                    8. Calm the Whirlwind

                    The day-to-day life in business and life can be hard, which leads us to feel less self-assured.

                    Your mind may be full to bursting with all of the things you feel you have to do. The phrase “I don’t have time” has almost become an instant reaction by so many people when new opportunities are presented.

                    There is a whirlwind happening inside our minds.

                    Appointments, notifications, tasks, phone calls, errands, cash flow, staffing issues, networking, marketing all can clutter up our timeline. The sheer volume of things we feel we should do creates procrastination, stopping us from pursuing the projects and people that matter.

                    Many of us feel we have to do everything within our business.

                    Rather than simplifying things and doing less, we do more. We work longer, which creates a lack of energy and focus. Because of this, we lose clarity on our biggest opportunities. If you feel this way, take some well-deserved time off.

                    Look at where you’re spending your time. How much of your time is being spent moving your ideas forward?

                    In the next 90 days, if you could delegate or outsource more daily tasks and spend more time focusing on where you add the biggest value, what difference would it make?

                    Calm the whirlwind by slowing down and doing less.

                    Focus on areas that you add the biggest amount of value. By doing this, your energy levels will increase, your confidence will grow and you will have more success.

                    9. Take More Time off

                    This may seem counterintuitive, but taking more time off to recharge and refocus can pay huge dividends.

                    If you are constantly fighting fires and caught up in the myriad of different activities that you have to do each day, then how can you move your business forward?

                    You may be being pulled in difference directions without any focused time on your biggest projects. If that’s the case, then it’s almost impossible to gain any real momentum in moving your business forward and hitting your goals.

                    The best way to get off that treadmill is to take more creative time out of the business.

                    Could you realistically take one day off per month to work on your business? If you could, what would you do with this time?

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                    Just imagine no distractions, only focused time on the strategic development and growth of your business.

                    Every day off per month could have a different focus: New product innovation; Thinking about your biggest clients; Improving operations.

                    Add to this a quarterly review to check in with your goals progress, and this could have a dramatic effect on where you spend your valuable time.

                    10. Celebrate Wins

                    Sometimes you just want to get through the day, right?

                    You have so much to do. There are so many things on your task list that you just complete what you can and then start another day. But what would happen if, at the end of each day, you took some time out to look at what you’ve accomplished?

                    Celebrating success keeps you motivated and helps you become more self-assured. It is not just another day. It’s a day that included things that should be celebrated.

                    If you’re struggling to feel motivated, try celebrating a couple of wins each day.

                    Celebrating success combined with the gratitude you have for achieving those wins will boost your confidence and inspire you for the next day.

                    11. Give Yourself More Space

                    When was the last time you gave yourself time to think?

                    Within the hustle and bustle, it can be difficult to give yourself a little bit of space and time to just think[3].

                    Imagine giving yourself just an hour a day to just let your mind wander or think about a specific thing.

                    If you think about it, we can all free up an hour a day for something without really losing any efficiency or really impacting our business.

                    In fact, that hour could be transformational for your business and life.

                    A new idea for a product could form, or an idea for adding value to your existing clients could materialize. Perhaps you could do a check in to your ideal future and your goals. You could decide that you want to take your business in a new direction.

                    Try this: Just sit alone for an hour with a notebook and let it be your creative thinking time. See what happens.

                    Final Thoughts

                    Ultimately, being self-assured happens when you have a clear direction.

                    This, coupled with having clear goals and working in your unique skill-set, gives you the biggest opportunity to be more productive and get more of the right things done.

                    The old mantra that “less is more” is right on the money. By giving yourself more time to work on your goals, you will inevitably increase your confidence; at this point, your ideal future can be anything you want it to be.

                    More on How to Be Self-Assured

                    Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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