Meditation is an amazing tool that has started to change the way I view myself and my actions. Although I am still new to meditating, I have already begun to notice its benefits in many areas of my life.
However, the most important of these benefits to me is my increased ability to get more done in a day, aka meditation for productivity.
There is a WIDE range of positives outcomes people can experience when it comes to meditation, but first I would like to address a common association people make when they hear the word “meditation”. “Meditation? I don’t need that Hippy ya-ya nonsense”. I imagine something like this has already passed through some of your heads upon reading this post.
From here on out, I want you to think of meditation as a tool for success. It can be many things to many people, but first and foremost it should be viewed as a practice to improve our mental state and our productivity.
So STOP thinking meditation is just for “woke” yuppies on some spiritual journey, because I’m telling you, it can be much more than that.
Many of the world’s most successful people meditate on a daily basis, and cannot say enough on how it has helped them. From just calming an overactive mind to becoming aware of when we are getting distracted and redirecting our focus, meditation can be applied to almost every aspect of our lives in one way or another.
But if you don’t believe me just do a quick google of “Tim Ferris Meditation” to get proof that this is a favorite habit among MANY very successful people.
I’m sure there will be future posts on the different aspects of meditation, as all its uses could never be comprehensibly covered in a single, reasonably sized post. Today we will focus on how we can use meditation for productivity. So without further adieu let’s dive in.
Accessing the Hidden World of the Mind
“Whenever you go out of doors, draw the chin in, carry the crown of the head high, & fill the lungs to the utmost; drink in the sunshine; greet your friends with a smile, & put soul into every handclasp. Do not fear being misunderstood & do not waste a minute thinking about your enemies. Try to fix firmly in your mind what you would like to do; & then without veering off direction, you will move straight to the goal. Keep your mind on the great & splendid things you would like to do, & then, as the days go gliding by, you will find yourself unconsciously seizing upon the opportunities that are required for the fulfillment of your desire, just as the coral insect takes from the running tide the element it needs. Picture in your mind the able, earnest, useful person you desire to be, & the thought you hold is hourly transforming you into the particular individual… Thought is supreme. Preserve a right mental attitude — the attitude of courage, frankness, & good cheer. To think right is to create. All things come through desire & every sincere prayer is answered. We become like that on which our hearts are fixed. Whenever you go out of doors, draw the chin in; carry the crown of the head high. We are gods in the chrysalis.” – Elbert Hubbard
I LOVE that quote. For many reasons, however mostly because it is a reminder of what we are capable of if we would only stop getting in our own way.
Our minds were designed to keep us alive. That means food, water, shelter, and sex. Anything extra that has even the slightest perceived risk is unnecessary and lowers our chance for survival.
This was all fine and good for the thousands of years mankind existed before the agricultural revolution.
To combat all these temptations that would put us in harm’s way our brains evolved to be expert excuse makers. In modern society there are so many temptations and complexities that create just a smorgasbord of things for your mind to dig in to and create all manner of absurdities.
I think this is the reason many modern mental illnesses exist. We’ve created such a safe and stable environment for ourselves in the first world that our subconscious mind must FABRICATE reasons for us to be afraid and cautious.
Thousands of years ago merely approaching the “herd” patriarch with the wrong body language meant we could be killed or banished, not very good for the chances of passing on our genes. So instead we produce anxiety and fear.
That gut feeling that just tells you a decision could very well be a bad one. But that’s not all; our brains will take it a step further and paint vivid and exaggerated pictures of the possible repercussions of our actions.
Our brains also evolved another skill however, and that is the power of critical thinking and conscious observation of what’s going on not only externally, but internally as well.
With this skill on hand we have the power to realize when we are making unfounded excuses and ridiculous scenarios, overcome this natural reaction to risk, and take action regardless of our latent fears and doubts.
However, evolution has had millions of years to perfect its craft of creating fears and worries, whereas consciously overcoming them is a skill that we must learn and practice throughout our lifespan.
Meditation is an invaluable asset for getting comfortable with our mind space. You see normally we wouldn’t even notice that our brains are being ridiculous. These fears and excuses manifest as thoughts that we apparently came up with ourselves, so they must always make sense right?
Wrong. We must develop the ability to catch these thoughts as they’re happening through active awareness.
Meditation at its core is all about awareness. Becoming aware of subtle things like breathing that we normally wouldn’t have a second thought about is a great step in the right direction toward becoming aware of our own thoughts and feelings throughout the day.
This isn’t just effective in reducing our fear by the way, it can also be hugely useful in noticing when we are distracted, procrastinating, and a plethora of other things we engage in subconsciously (often to avoid work or other responsibilities).
Now if you’re an efficiency minding individual (which I imagine most of you are) then obviously being free from distractions and fears would be seen as a huge boon to your ability.
It’s a little weird to think about that mental landscape and that all these things could be happening without our direct attention, but it is true and occurring in each one of us almost constantly. To control this mental menagerie we must first become comfortable with that space. That is precisely where meditation comes in to help.
Ways to Skin the Cat
As with anything there are MANY types of meditation and many of these have overlapping themes. To go into and explain each and every type of meditation out there would be more like writing a book and is beyond the scope of this post. Suffice it to say that there are different techniques for achieving different things depending on what you are looking for.
I implore you to do independent research on the various types of meditation to discover which ones you would like to try the most. In addition to that, experiment. Try many kinds of meditation to find the one that works the best for you. Even if you find one that you like and works well, there may be another way that works even better.
So as always, do your research and experiment.
Although I still have many forms to try out myself, my personal favorite so far is guided meditation. Guided meditation is a general term that can be used in many other more specific types of meditation, and simply means that there is a guide in the form of another person verbally walking you through the meditation.
As I mentioned earlier, meditation is many things to people, and your guide will likely choose a tone that most personally resonates with them. This could range from a journey to spiritual enlightenment to more goal and objective oriented with how this practice can carry over into daily life.
Choosing a guide that matches your personal view on meditation is a freedom you have that will make adapting your practice that much easier.
Generally, meditation is practiced once or twice a day (usually morning and/or night) in an extended session lasting anywhere from 10 minutes up to an hour or longer.
Some people view meditation as a simple breathing exercise, and believe that its benefit comes solely from controlling their breath and sitting in an upright position with proper posture, no extra mental energy required. These people often practice mini-meditations in addition to their extended practice throughout the day that are usually only a few minutes in length and focus on controlling breathing.
Whether you believe the mental benefits of meditation come simply from controlled breathing and posture or that there’s something deeper to it, anyone can perform mini-meditations.
These can have many applications and uses for the productive individual. Calming an overactive mind, re-centering oneself from distraction, or just unwinding after a stressful day are all things that can be accomplished through mini-meditation in just a few minutes.
They can last anywhere from five minutes down to taking a single deep conscious breath and re-framing focus, and anywhere in between. I love using these whenever I feel my mental state is a bit messy, I’m not sure how to proceed, or I just want to take a minute to re-access something and apply some critical thinking (often to my own thought process).
The power of these little breaks comes in your ability to apply them WHENEVER you feel the time is right, rather than waiting for your next scheduled morning or night session.
Just realizing when you could go for a minute or two of downtime is a great way to train awareness and if anything, is a good marker of progress within your meditation practice (which is often difficult to gauge).
You can also try these even if you’ve never done a proper meditation session. The next time you are feeling overwhelmed or had a long exhausting day at work try to find a quiet place and just take some deep conscious breaths for a short time.
I bet at the very least you’ll feel a little relieved that you’ve taken a moment away from work for yourself!
The act of breathing deeply also can lower our heart rate and blood pressure, inducing a feeling of ease or calm. Pay attention to how you feel immediately after performing this mini-meditation. Although the feeling may fade quickly, the more you practice the longer you will find yourself able to maintain this level of calm stability even after you’ve returned to work.
Now I understand that all this may be overwhelming.
I’ve given a lot of general information on meditation and not many specific instructions. Although the purpose of this post is more of an introduction to meditation and how it can improve productivity, in this section I will attempt to give you a launch pad to start your meditation endeavors from.
Before I give you my recommendations though I want to make it perfectly clear that this is something that takes a good amount of practice before seeing results. If you go into meditation thinking it will immediately increase your ability, you may be disappointed.
Like any skill it takes time to see progress, especially when it comes to improving our mental state. It is fairly difficult to notice where meditation is taking its effect in our lives, however the more we practice the more aware we will become of the indicators that it is indeed affecting us positively.
So please, don’t give up on meditation after just a few sessions. Critically addressing what subconsciously occurs in our brain is no easy task and will take even the most astute some time to adjust to.
As I mentioned in the previous section guided meditation is currently my chosen form of meditation and that is largely because it is the one type of meditation that really got me to stick with it.
Having someone there to guide you through your first meditation sessions can be very helpful when going into it not knowing what to expect. It will also help in the way that guides will often bring up common issues or concerns people encounter when first trying out meditation, such as physical discomfort or helping you to become more aware of when your mind is wandering.
The Headspace 10-day Challenge
I think one of the best ways to give meditation a try is through the popular app Headspace. Upon signing up you gain access to their 10 day basics pack for free. If you can get yourself to meditate for 10 days in a row you’ll be off to a great start towards developing a daily practice.
I like headspace because creator and guide Andy Puddicombe takes a very basic approach to the idea of meditation that I think can apply to almost everyone. He regularly addresses any concerns you may have when starting out, and takes a very practical tone toward meditation, focusing on how it can and will apply to your daily life.
If you want more after this 10 day preview you will have to pay a subscription fee. I believe this subscription is well worth it and has helped me maintain my practice throughout the last six months (I paid for it so I better get my money’s worth). With a full account you have access to tons of guided meditations focusing on many aspects of life. There really is something for everyone here.
If you don’t feel like paying or simply can’t afford it right now there’s no need to worry. There are tons of free resources online for guided meditations, or any other meditation you may want to try out. Again practice, research, and experimenting are the key here.
I hope this post has given you some insight on how meditation can greatly improve your life in many ways, especially productivity. It has helped me in realizing when I am procrastinating (which is a daily struggle for me) and when my brain is subconsciously working against me. Being able to take note of this and re-align myself with what is important at that moment has proven to be an invaluable asset.
As someone with a lot of organizational and work ethic issues, I still have a long way to go to reach the level of productivity I would like, but meditation is certainly helping to make the path clearer.
Leave it in the comments below which kind of meditation is your favorite, how your first experience with meditation went, or any other questions or additions you have. I hope you all have a wonderfully mindful day, and remember “We are gods in the chrysalis”.