If you’ve read any of my books, you know that I believe meditation is one of several useful attention management strategies in the pursuit of productivity improvement. Meditation increases your ability to recognize what’s on your mind, and what “brain state” you’re in, and shift to the internal thoughts or the brain state that will serve you best in the moment. These attention management techniques are key to improving your productivity, or as I think of it—to achieving more of the results that are most significant to you.
Meditation is also a useful business skill, especially for leaders, as it improves your emotional self-awareness, your positive outlook, and your emotional self control, all important components of emotional intelligence, or “eq.” Emotional intelligence is another important leadership skill.
I learned about the work of Tom Evans, a UK-based meditation expert, author of over a dozen books, and one of the most popular teachers on Insight Timer, the largest free library of guided meditations. I asked him if he would share some thoughts with me here about meditation as a business skill and one of several attention management strategies. Don’t miss his wealth of free resources below!
Using Meditation to Deal with Uncertainty
Maura: Meditation is increasingly being seen as a useful business skill. How do you think a meditation practice benefits leaders, and is it more important now in these challenging times?
Tom: Regular meditation makes you calm. In a crisis, a cool head wins the day and an air of calmness spreads to those around you … like a beneficial virus. When someone who meditates regularly talks, you can tell their words come from their heart, not their head, and their messages resonate with truth.
After a month or so of daily meditating, something else kicks in. We become more creative and productive and, when we learn to quiet the mind, we become more observant of events and happenstances around us. It seems that we become “luckier,” and this allows us to steer our business, and people, into new directions.
Maura: Do you think that your meditation practice gives you benefits in these uncertain times that people who don’t meditate are missing?
Tom: In these uncertain and trying times, daily meditation provides a safe haven where you can “stop the world and get off” for a few minutes. It also helps you develop an ability to be concerned and show empathy as opposed to being worried and spreading fears.
Maura: The ability to regulate your mood is important during these challenging times, and is an important benefit of meditation.
Getting Started using Meditation as a Business Skill
Maura: You recommend meditating for 10 minutes each day for a new outlook on things. Can you provide some advice for people just getting started, who feel that meditation is daunting?
Tom: When I was first introduced to meditation, I had two reactions. Firstly was that it was a waste of time and, secondly, that there was no way I could make my overactive mind go quiet. I persisted and after just a few weeks, I found I got more done on the days I meditated than when I didn’t. So I got the time back many times over. I also learned that meditation isn’t about having no thoughts at all but in coming to a new relationship with your thoughts.
The key to meditating easily and quickly is simply to tune into the breath. We all have to breathe anyway so this is a good and useful technique. To start, make yourself comfortable and breathe in and out seven times but pay attention to the gap between the in and out breaths and the out and in breaths. If you find you lose count of the breathing cycles, you are not doing it wrong. Rather, you have slipped naturally into a light meditative state. I told you it was easy!
When I started there were few online resources but now there are loads of apps. The one I recommend, and am featured on, is the most popular free app. It’s called Insight Timer, and it works on all iOS and Android devices.
Meditation and Attention Management
Maura: One of your recent books is called “Mindful Timeful Kindful,”and I love the phrases. Can you explain what “timefulness” is, and what you mean by “practical mindfulness?” I think they have great synergy with attention management.
Tom: Yes, the phrase “mindful timeful kindful” is an alliteration and has become a mantra for many people who listen to my meditations on this theme. What happens as a byproduct of being mindful and meditating, is that we end up getting more done with less time. This is because the ‘normal’ human mind can only have one thought at a time. So if our mind drifts, perhaps to the past or the future, we lose focus on what we are doing right now and our efficiency drops.
The state of timefulness is achieved by quieting our inner chatter and getting the left and right brains in sync with each other. There are some simple breathing techniques to help us enter this state. This state is known as ‘the zone’ where we induce singularity in our thoughts.
Maura: Similar to “flow state.” The ability to engage your flow state more often is another one of the attention management strategies I recommend.
Tom: When we spend more and more time in this timeful state, we end up having more time to be kind to ourselves and others and we enter the state of kindfulness. The whole process is cyclical and we discover that we get kindnesses bestowed back on us – but from unexpected sources.
The key to unlocking this world and way of being is to meditate for at least 10 minutes every single day. As the results are so tangible, this is not so much the practice of mindfulness but practical mindfulness. Who wouldn’t want more time, more creativity, more productivity and a sprinkling of good fortune?
So as you start each day, especially in these strange times, be mindful of what you plan to achieve in the next rotation of the Earth on its axis. Be timeful of how you allow each hour to pass by. Most of all, perform several random acts of kindness.
Domains of Mindfulness
Maura: Are there any other important insights you’d like to share with leaders who are interested in improving the productivity of themselves and their teams?
Tom: While there is no need to become a practicing Buddhist to benefit from mindfulness meditation, some of the tenets of Buddhist philosophy are immensely practical, and useful in business.
In Buddhism, there are four ‘domains of mindfulness’. These domains are all worth ‘bearing in mind’ for anyone who wants to be successful in business, and life. They are practical and commonsensical.
- Mindfulness of the body
If we are mindful of our body, we notice what it is telling us. Our body is the vehicle that carries us around and nagging and persistence low-level illnesses are a sign we need to pull in for a pit stop. Symptoms such as digestive issues are a sure sign that we are stressed. Heart disease is often seeded by not being loved or appreciated, or not loving what we do and who we are with.
- Mindfulness of feelings
It pays great dividends to become mindful of our feelings. As you will see, our gut and heart centers are now recognized by neurologists as ‘intelligences’ that interact continually with the mind that sits in our brain. Ignore their advice at your peril.
Business owners who learn to trust their gut and follow their heart have the edge. They will be quicker out of the blocks and more attuned to spotting and generating opportunities.
- Mindfulness of consciousness
We don’t give much thought to our thoughts. This is a great shame as what we are thinking fundamentally creates the world around us. On one level, this is subjective. For example whether we see our glass as half full or empty.
On a whole other level, it is because thoughts don’t so much become things, but they are things. When you practice meditation for just a few weeks, you will find that what you think starts to manifest in your world.
- Mindfulness of ‘the way of things’
The saying that ‘what goes around comes around’ is one of these maxims that holds universally true. It is a truism that sits somewhat beyond religion, faith and scientific analysis. We ‘know’ it is true because it seems to work. If we are kind to people, they are kind in return.
For example, in business, if you deliver on time, or always slightly over-deliver, you will find others will respond ‘in kind’. If you pay all your suppliers promptly, you will find you get paid quickly too. Good cash flow requires us to allow cash to flow around the system, both in and out because money is an energy and needs to be put to use.
If someone ever falls foul of this ‘way of things’, it pays dividends to be mindful as to why they have done so. It may be a sign that they need help or guidance or that there is something we can do to improve ourselves and our communication with a supplier or customer.
Above all, be mindful about what can be learned from the current global pandemic and how we can come out the other side into a kinder world where we treasure our ride together on “Spaceship Earth.”
Tom Evans is an author and meditation guide specializing in using mindfulness for real world outcomes. Over the years, Tom has created hours and hours of online course materials, including a course on how to be more mindful of your time. They are now freely available to all during this pandemic and beyond. Get free access at tomevans.co/free-resources.