Work is more than just an ability to pay bills and earn enough money to do the things we want. Work requires us to find some measure of self-expression and personal fulfillment to enable us to continue doing it. But even with a level of fulfillment or self-expression, work is one of our major sources of life stress.
Work often requires us to be in ‘driven doing’ mode. We push to meet the objectives we or others set for us. That, after all, is the essence of business. But in the process we can lose touch with ourselves and the present moment. This results in us ignoring the natural signals from the body or mind that serve us. Incessant mental and physical activity and stress leaves us depleted - mentally, physically and even emotionally.
So, is there a way to combine genuine, focused productivity and at the same time, retain a sense of vitality and wellbeing throughout the day ? As an entrepreneur, I have gravitated towards Eben Pagan's Wake Up Productive (WUP) program. This is a very 'lean', mindfulness based approach that's focused on getting a lot done as a result of honoring the body's natural need to revitalize between periods of highly focused productivity. Eben Pagan uses the 60-60-30 Method at the core of his Wake Up Productive Program. (This WUP) program is tailored more to entrepreneurs than office workers, but the principles and exercises below can be adapted to the office environment).
1. Eben Pagan's 60-60-30 Method
Try starting the day with Pagan's 60-60-30 solution at the start of every of your working days. This refers to working in two focused, uninterrupted 60 minute chunks followed by 30 minute chunk of focused, uninterrupted work time. In the first 2 1/2 hours the goal is to work on your biggest opportunities, on the things that bring you the most money. Thos 60 minuts chunks in are further divided into:
- 50 min of intense concentration
- then a 10 min break
- In that 10 minute period, stop work completely and move your body, stretch, relax,get some fresh air or relax deeply using a mindful check-in (see below).
Don't access e-mail or phone in this 2 1/2 hr time. You will get more done than you could imagine possible. After your first round of 60-60-30, you can initiate another later in the day.
2. Use a Timer To Make 'Clean Cuts' Between Tasks
Use a timer to ensure you are making clean cuts between your 60-60-30 time chunks and not wasting time "just checking my email' or social media. A lot of time and energy is wasted in between tasks, something Eben Pagan calls 'friction'. Using clean, sustained focus, and clean cuts, you can massively improve the quality of work, your outputs and maintain a sense of vitality and wellbeing. So for example, using the example in 1) above, set your timer to ding at 50 minutes, then again 10 minutes later to signal the end of your first 60 minute chunk.
3. The Mindful Check-In
1. Start by taking a few deep, slow cleansing breaths. Physically stop where you are or take a seat for a moment.
2. Then take awareness into your physical body and notice how it feels. Is there any tension in the body? Notice any feeling tones of energy or tiredeness. Ease or aches. Notice the touch of clothing on skin and any other sensations like temperature and pressure. Aiming to feel what’s there to be felt without any judgement (There’s no right or wrong way to feel. You’re just tuning in to what’s here right now.).
3. Tune in to your emotional and mental states. Notice what kinds of thoughts are present in the mind. Check out the overall state of the mind (calm, restless, tired, energised, focused, or unfocused) and also any emotions that are present.
4. Open your awareness to take in the whole present moment — the sounds of the day, how you’re feeling, visual perceptions such as the objects around you and the play of light and shadow in the room. Open up to the unfolding of the present moment.
5. Proceed with awareness.
This five-step process can take as little as 30 seconds or as long as 5 to 10 minutes if you feel like you’d like to take a longer pause.
If you find it hard to find time or struggle with the Mindful Check-In, try taking just 20 seconds to simply notice your breath. Allow your attention to centre itself on a simple awareness of the breath as it flows in and out of the body. Let these brief 20 second intervals, be moments where you come off 'auto-pilot' and center you attention on just how simple and pleasing the sensation of breathing is. You don’t need to alter the breath; you’re not doing breathing exercises here. Allow it to flow naturally, effortlessly, in its own comfortable rhythm. Simply become aware of it. Feel your lungs expand and contract, belly rising and falling, and the sensations of breath at the tips of the nostrils. Let the breath bring you home to yourself in the present moment. Set an intention to do this 10 or even 20 times a day. At the end of the day, see if you can remember or count how many of these shorter mindful moments you used.
Doing a regular 5-10 minute daily meditation practice will greatly strengthen your ability to maintain mindfulness during the work day. Try to do this before opening your email for the day. If you don’t have a practice already, why not start with just these five or ten minutes every morning for 30 days and see how it works for you? If mornings are difficult time for you, you could do a short meditation during your lunch break at work. There is really no substitute for a regular daily practice. Regular meditation is the most powerful way to infuse vitality and and a sense of wellbeing throughout the rest of the day.Try these 4 ways to bring a little more ‘being’ into your ‘doing’ and I believe you’ll find you can be just as productive but with a little more lightness, ease and joy.