Meditation for productivity
What’s the one productivity tool you can’t imagine living without? Maybe it’s a time-management app that keeps you on the straight and narrow. Perhaps you rely on a task/project organizer. It’s a pretty fair bet that few people would list meditation as their go-to tool. Meditation obviously wasn’t designed to make us more productive, but it’s not that surprising that it helps.
All the technology in the world won’t make us more productive if we’re unable to mentally apply ourselves, bringing a sustained attention with clear intention. What we’re really talking about here is efficiency. The more efficient we are, the more productive we will be.
If we go into something half-hearted, with the wrong attitude, or are easily distracted, our productivity suffers. The mind can only be in one place at a time, so if its attention is not fully engaged with the task or project at hand, something will be missing. Or we’ll operate or perform in short bursts, which isn’t ideal either.
“High-quality work is a function of two things: the amount of time you spend on the work and the intensity of your focus during this time,” explained Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. “If you increase your focus, you’ll get more done in less time.”
If we wish to be more productive in every area of our life — at work and at home — then we need to train the mind to be good at applying a sustained effort … and that’s where meditation for productivity comes in.
When people think about being more productive, it’s usually around work — producing better work, and more of it. There are several ways in which a meditation for productivity can boost your performance on the job.
Studies show that meditation is associated with structural changes in areas of the brain responsible for cognitive and emotional processing. That change, increased cortical thickness (i.e., more gray matter), is also associated with improved working memory and skilled executive decision-making. Meditation can help declutter your thoughts and sharpen your concentration, which also allows you to stay on task longer.
Even during those pressure-cooker days, meditation helps by reducing stress, which can muddy the mind and keep us from performing at our best. Meditation not only deepens our concentration, it also lessens the mental effort needed to stay focused. One guided meditation productivity study described it as “a state of concentrated calm or serene attention.” In fact, just one session of Headspace was shown to improve focus and reduce mind-wandering by 22%.
If that state of concentrated calm or serene attention sounds appealing, it might be time to get productive with a meditation practice.
"Even during those pressure-cooker days, meditation helps by reducing stress, which can muddy the mind and keep us from performing at our best."
Meditation for productivity
The meditation technique that allows us to improve on our productivity is called Noting — it provides clear direction on when and how we are distracted. It’s also a useful technique to know for everyday life, as a mindfulness tool to remember when not meditating.
Here’s how it works: During our practice, the mind will inevitably wander off. Once we notice that our attention has wandered, we pause and identify the nature of the distraction: oh yeah, that was thinking; or, that was a feeling. Labeling the distraction — noting it — helps us to disengage from it by creating space between the arising thought or feeling. Having noted the distraction, there’s a sense of having dealt with it, which makes it easier to let it go and gently return to the object of focus — be that the breath during our practice, or the task at hand during our day. And when it happens again, we simply apply the same approach.
When we’re training the mind for focus or productivity, it’s tempting to think that we’re trying to control the mind. When we think about productivity and efficiency, it’s often about getting somewhere, or achieving something. It’s important that we don’t bring too much of that in here. In a guided meditation for productivity, we’re not training in willpower, or trying to control the mind in any way. We’re simply creating the right conditions in which we can observe the behavior of the mind. In doing so, we start to find some moments of quiet, of focus, of attention. Over time, we develop some stability of awareness, which helps us override any distractions and enjoy a sustained period of effort.
In addition to its 10-day meditation course on productivity, Headspace offers other courses, single meditations, and helpful animations around the themes of work & productivity. Choose from among Difficult Conversations, Mindful Tech, or Creative Writing, to name just a few. Headspace can help you cultivate the perfect conditions for relaxed, precise focus. Or listen to a guided meditation you can do at work, to press pause in the middle of a hectic day.
If you’re looking for other types of meditation, explore all that Headspace has to offer: everything from happiness and anger to walking and stress. There are even meditations for kids! Whatever you’re looking for, Headspace has you covered.
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