Keeping On Track With Mindfulness

08 March 2013, by A. Cedilla

In a world with uncertain economies, shifting social changes and powerful, ubiquitous technologies, you may think that you’re doing all you can to protect the tiny economy of your own small enterprise.

You see, when it comes to running your own business, the sheer number of factors beyond your control –the down market, political infighting and indecisiveness, new tech demanding immediate mastery– demand that you bite down and focus on the essentials first before attending to the lower priorities. It’s basic self-protection. Survival first.

But life is more than just survival. If you’d just take a minute, just one, to watch the video in the linked quote below, it would help give you a background to this article.

 

You got into business for a reason, or several reasons. You’re making it thrive despite everything that’s happened in the world. Looking back at where you started, do those reasons still apply? Or have you forgotten them in the daily crunch of running your little empire? Is what you’re doing right now — and plan to do for the foreseeable future — giving you what you need and want? Are you doing things with your purpose in mind?

This is where cultivating the habit of mindfulness kicks in.

Minding something means being present. It means to take care of something, and being aware. It means paying attention and focusing on what to do in that moment of focused care. “Mind the cat!” may mean to be careful of the hairball purring around your ankle — one wrong move, and it’s a YouTube video waiting to happen, so you pay real attention.

 

How do you sharpen mindfulness?

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
-Abraham Lincoln, 1809-65

 

When you have a project in mind, you spend time thinking it through and plotting it out, right? Mindfulness is the mental art of that process — carried all throughout your actions. You take notice. You focus. You’re being present.

When the days are long, what do you do? Know what you want (and need) to have done by the end of the day. This is the simplest way to finish things: You start from the end, and think your way back before you move. It’s planning.

  • Break the time apart into smaller units: a year, a quarter, a month, a week, a few days, your best working hours.
  • Break projects down into their smallest doable units.
  • When you start moving, do things with those actions units aligned with your time.
  • Concentrate on what you’re doing while you’re doing it. Careful with the multi-tasking, aren’t-I-great-at-this foo-foo. Work when you’re working.
  • Rest when you’re done. Eat. You’ve freed up time to do what you want.

 

Being mindful asks us to remember that we think in images. Human memory being what is is, it helps to write things down. Whatever apps or tools you use to get things done — so when you’ve captured the images in your head and carry them to fruition in real life — you help align your actions with your intentions.

And when you use mindfulness to help discern the best course of action, it will help you know when your actions and activities are supporting your goals (and vice-versa), or if you’re out of alignment.

  • Remember you are making choices all the time — be responsive, attentive and responsible for the ones that really matter, not absent-minded ticking things off like a metronome. Buried in daily activities are the steps to your most important goals. Are you taking them?

 

Writing down what’s important and keeping some sort of master document of goals for frequent reference helps you make sure you’re realigning your days and your doings, and that you’re going somewhere with them. Human memory is fallible — write important stuff down, and you can remember three things:

  • What you were thinking around that important concept — sort of like the starting point for a mind-map.
  • Who you were at the time you wrote it. Maybe you were at a very calm, clear state, on an excited, eager one. Remembering inspiration and determination can help rekindle those feelings and encourage them.
  • What you wanted at the end of accomplishing that thing. Boom — you have a goal, an activity, a worthy task.

In remembering who you were when you first started, the desire you felt, and the meaning of the objects of your desire, you can see and affirm the greater picture of your life and the way you’re living it. You’re being mindful of how your actions create your life, and vice-versa.

If you aim to have something big done by the end of the year, you break that time down even further — the human mind by itself has the distressing tendency to lose details and wander off-track, as well as lose the sense of importance, especially when it comes to doing work over time. This is why learning basic project management skills is so important. You can’t live a year in a day, so you take each day as is.

 

A year looks good on paper. (Imagine all that blank space!) But again, all of us only live one day at a time. In execution, big things can get buried under the minutiae, admin work and general sameness of daily living. Not to mention the flotsam-and-jetsam coming in from other people’s agendas, whether you work with these people and-or live with them.

When you have big goals, break them down into concise situations. A goal can be a fuzzy start, an concrete image clarifies what you want to end up with.
Here’s a very basic example: “I want a clean house. ” Breaking it down allows you to be more precise. Like, a clean house may mean: No clutter or kiddie toys on the floor, no more junk papers on the desk or the side tables, no more scrambling to clean up when company comes over, and so on.

It’s the same for other goals: “I want to save money. I want to make money. I want to do my own thing. I want to work for myself.” Here are your fuzzy goals, it’s up to you to clarify them.
Then, when HERE is your current situation (HERE is what comes out as the things that you need to do) and THERE is where you want to be, mindfulness is you paying attention to doing what needs doing to get you from HERE to THERE.

Mindfulness is you staying in the moment of taking each step. The space between HERE and THERE is the time between you and your end goal, and you have to use that time wisely. Because:

Nobody on their deathbed has ever said “I wish I had spent more time at the office”.
– Rabbi Harold Kushner

 

On a regular basis, check in with yourself and ask:

  • Am I okay with the pace, can I keep it up without endangering my health?
  • Is this REALLY what I want, need?
  • Am I going in the direction I’m aiming for when I do this?
  • Is doing what I’m doing now getting me closer to and end goal with the quality I have in mind?
  • Where the heck am I right now?

This is where weekly reviews (the result of asking these questions) are supposed to align with timely (read: monthly, quarterly, semi-annual and yearly ) goals. I mean, 365 is a boring number, 90 days is a long time to wait for your buyers to pay you, a month is an eternity, a week is survivable, a day is okay, 16 hours — you need around 8 to sleep– is doable.

Just bear in mind:

  • Focus on the things you tasked yourself to accomplish now. Don’t trip on the past or try to fast-froward to the future
  • Learn how to listen: important things can be humming as background noise
  • Be more grounded in your daily rhythms. When facing the brouhaha of the day, remember, this too shall pass
  • Identify. isolate and address the ‘grit’ that sneaks in and slows up your performance. Don’t let it spread.
  • Stay on course, but not always through autopilot — you are the master of your ship.

 

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