From the moment you get up to the moment you go to bed, you are probably pretty busy. You’re juggling a lot of balls–your business, your family, your hobbies–and it can be really easy to get distracted.
You hop from meeting to meeting to family function to tasks at home. You may pride yourself on being so busy and productive that you barely have time to eat.
But how productive is your day? Are you really on top of things? Have you dropped some balls lately?
In all your busyness, you may miss a deadline or forget a meeting. Or maybe you’ve started to misplace important files or you missed out on an opportunity because your inbox is a mess.
Or maybe were you late to a family event, or had to skip it altogether because your schedule was packed to the gills.
When you’re so busy, it’s hard to be in the present moment. You may be at a meeting, but you’re thinking about the next phone call or meeting or task that you need to do.
Your very busy day could leave you feeling stressed out, unhappy, and overwhelmed. I know the feeling. You can feel like you’re in this never-ending cycle of barely getting through the day.
But you can get off the constant treadmill of tasks and give yourself some space and moments of peace and clarity during the day.
And you may find this to be impossible to do. And I understand. I know from personal experience how hard this can be.
Is It Really Possible to Slow Down?
It’s very hard in modern day life to slow down. In fact, it almost feels frowned upon, especially in the workplace.
I slaved away for years in a corporate job where it was a badge of honor to send middle of the night emails, work on the weekends, and get in that extra meeting, trip, or conference call every week. More was better because life is short and whoever works the hardest wins.
At the peak of my career, I was managing 17 different business units in a dozen different states with close to $100M in annual sales. There was never enough time in the day and there was always someone to talk to, a project to review, a report to create, or a new opportunity to explore.
When I burned out on corporate America, I realized I didn’t really want to live like that anymore. But, old habits die hard, and as I started my own business, I found it was easy to fall back into the same patterns.
I took on too many opportunities. I failed to set good boundaries on my time. I continued to buy into the myth that going hard 24/7 is the only way to be successful.
Over time, I’ve had to develop new habits and rituals to put a speed bump in days. One of those is meditation. By scheduling a few speed bumps in an otherwise busy day, I’m able to get re-centered, get refocused, become more present and ultimately, be way more effective and productive.
But it’s a challenge. Even though I know it works, my old brain sometimes just wants me to push on and get more done.
That’s why I schedule in an AM and PM meditation every day and try to take other short 5-15 minute breaks when I see I’m hitting the red line.
I see this same problem with so many of the clients I work with. They are distracted, even in important meetings. They have scheduled too many things into a day and never have time to simply pause, reflect and be.
So they end up either making too many decisions or putting off decisions, all because they can’t really process everything that is going on.
The following five-minute hacks can transform our day and make us more productive and effective. Whether you’re more spiritually inclined, a warrior, or an intellectual, there’s definitely a method that can help you stay centered and focused.
For the Spiritually Inclined
Meditation has been scientifically proven to be beneficial for your health, happiness, productivity, and more.
Combating the practical with the spiritual can be a highly effective way to get grounded. When your top salesperson is on a cold streak or your top engineer is leaving for another job, it can be helpful to take a minute and focus on a concept such as gratitude.
So if you want to take a more spiritually-centered break during your day, check out Lifehack.org’s article, The Secret Power of 5 Minute Meditation Breaks and Deepak Chopra’s Soul of Healing Meditations which covers 26 different topics that can help you find balance in the heat of just about any situation. These 2-3 minute meditations are a perfect way to make a quick escape and get re-centered.
Lose the big contract? Try meditating on Acceptance. Worried you aren’t going to pull off the big job on time? Try meditating on Fear. Pissed off at your competitor for ripping off your latest product? Try meditating on Judgment.
There’s also the free Insight Timer app, where you can set a time for 5 minutes to meditate in silence or choose from a number of guided meditations.
Meditation isn’t going to solve your problems, but it may help you reframe your mind and approach the situation in a more productive way.
It may sound a little “out there,” but don’t knock it till you try it. A 5-minute meditation can help you slow down an impulsive, gut reaction and save you a ton of time and headaches from making the wrong decision.
For the Warrior
If getting Zen isn’t really your speed, but you’d still like to take a breather or two in your day and de-stress, then take a page from the Navy SEALs.
Now you can imagine the kind of stress the Navy SEALs are under as a highly-trained, special ops team. So when these troops have to calm and focused — and, therefore, alive — before and after intense combat, they use this technique called 4×4 breathing or box breathing.
So here’s how you do it:
- Push out all of the air from your chest.
- Keep your lungs empty for a count of four.
- Breathe through your nose for a count of four.
- Hold the air in your lungs for a count of four. Note: Make sure you’re not holding on so tightly that you’re creating pressure. You should feel expansive and open.
- Release and exhale slowly through your nose for a count of four.
For us civilian folk, it’s an insanely simple trick to keep everyday stressors at bay. And it can be done in five minutes flat. It’s also a helpful way to fall asleep Gear Patrol lays out these steps with a GIF that helps you focus on breathing.
For the Intellectual
So even though you may know that meditation and mindfulness are scientifically proven, you may still think this is a little woo-woo and weird. No worries–there’s a meditation for you. It’s called analytic meditation.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta talked to the Dalai Lama about how hard it was to meditate and he suggested analytic meditation.
“He wanted me to separate the problem or issue from everything else by placing it in a large, clear bubble. With my eyes closed, I thought of something nagging at me — something I couldn’t quite solve. As I placed the physical embodiment of this problem into the bubble, several things started to happen very naturally.
“The problem was now directly in front of me, floating weightlessly. In my mind, I could rotate it, spin it or flip it upside-down. It was an exercise to develop hyper-focus.
“Less intuitively, as the bubble was rising, it was also disentangling itself from any other attachments, such as subjective emotional considerations. I could visualize it, as the problem isolated itself, and came into a clear-eyed view.”
Using this technique, I have meditated on manufacturing issues, marketing funnels, sales compensation plans. By disengaging from our normal problem-solving techniques and trying to view the problem objectively, we can find new solutions that might not be obvious.
It All Adds Up
Mindfulness and meditation are not only ways to relieve pressure during your busy days, but if you practice them on a daily basis, you’ll start to see that there’s a cumulative effect.
Your days become more grounded. Your schedule isn’t controlling you-you are controlling your schedule. Your stress and overwhelm will start to lessen and your focus and wellbeing will start to increase. You’ll be able to juggle all those balls better and actually start getting things done.
And all it’ll take is just a few minutes of your day.