As a leader, you might love multi-tasking and getting it ALL done.
Perhaps you feel invincible, maybe even giddy, as you –
- Discuss the new organizational restructuring plan with a department head on your smartphone,
- while toggling back and forth between 17 open tabs on your computer screen,
- noting that new LinkedIn connection request,
- then glancing at your paper planner as you quickly compare it to your google calendar,
- while searching online for tips on how to throw the perfect little league weenie-roast.
You’re so good at multi-tasking you sometimes feel intoxicated when you pile on just one more thing!
The bad news is you may have unconsciously developed an addiction. According to neuroscientist and New York bestselling author, Daniel Levitin, “Multitasking creates a dopamine-addiction feedback loop, effectively rewarding the brain for losing focus and constantly searching for external stimulation.” (Daniel Levitin. The Guardian and his book, The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload.)
Now more than ever, leaders require focus. Effective leaders have clarity. Sound business decisions are not made in the dark jungle of mental chaos, overwhelm, and constant over-stimulation.
To break the cycle of purposeful distraction requires awareness and commitment. Admitting the distraction and multi-tasking is creating a problem is the first step.
Use this barometer: Is what I’m investing my attention to having a positive or negative impact on achieving my goal at this moment? Think hard about it. Is it getting you closer to the objective? Or are you feeding an addiction?
It’s all about the moment. You can make better, clearer decisions moment by moment by being present and aware. This is the opposite of multitasking and distraction. Being present in every moment brings your attention back to the goal, the task, the vision. This breaks the cycle of habitual distraction and over-stimulation.
It takes practice. The good news is, unlike with other addictions, you won’t experience painful withdrawal symptoms. This will actually feel good. Your brain will feel happier and it will thank you by becoming smarter, stronger and more agile.
The art and science of Mindfulness is the antidote to multitasking, distraction, and the related feelings of stress, overwhelm and anxiety.
4 TIPS FOR BUSY LEADERS
Tip One: Deliberate focus. With our hyper-technology culture, training the mind to focus is becoming more critical than ever. If learning to focus seems difficult I have good news. Practicing focused attention, free of distraction, even for one-minute is beneficial. You can then attempt two minutes. Then three. Before you know it, you will be practicing deliberate focus for twenty minutes. Which leads me to the next tip.
*Beginner Hack: Use this video timer to easily establish moments of deliberate focus. Every 15 seconds you will hear a ding that reminds you to stay focused. You will hear a bell after every completed minute. It works!
Tip Two: Meditation. Does the idea of meditation cause your eyes to roll back in your head? What if meditation was as easy as taking a ten-minute walk and noticing each step and the placement of your feet? Meditation doesn’t have to be sitting in lotus position on a pillow for two hours. You can make anything a meditative practice. The next time you brush your teeth, simply focus deeply on the task. Feel the brush on your teeth. Notice the pressure you’re exerting. Notice the taste of the toothpaste. Notice how many thoughts are popping into your mind while you execute this mundane, routine task. Now notice you were just meditating. If you begin meditating in short spurts you are likely to extend the practice because you will like the results.
*Bonus! Even hugging can be a meditation. Zen Master Thich Nhat Hahn explains here.
Tip Three: Releasing Judgment. Having a judgment about everything is taxing and stressful. By deliberately choosing to be without judgment from time to time trains your brain to secrete chemicals that produce positive emotions. Next time, before making either a silent or verbal judgment, hit the pause button. Consider asking yourself if the snap-judgment is valid in the first place? Is it necessary? Or is it simply a default you’ve created, bringing no real impact to your life or the life of others? Judgments are merely thoughts. They may not be based in reality. Which leads me to another important tip.
Tip Four: Self-Inquiry. Questioning your thought process is another form of practicing mindfulness. Leaders who want to increase their emotional intelligence will begin the practice of questioning their thoughts.
You have a lot of thoughts. But are they purposeful and deliberate thoughts? Or are they uninvited thoughts? Have you ever given this any consideration? Do your thoughts control you? What if you could control your thoughts?
Becoming aware of your thoughts moment by moment is a deep form of mindfulness. Being aware of a thought is the first step in controlling our thought process. By controlling our thoughts, we control our actions and emotions. Leaders who can control their actions and emotions better serve their organization, team, and as a result, themselves.