Meditation: an essential productivity hack

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When I say ‘meditation’, what image comes to mind? Someone sitting in lotus pose, dressed in a white kaftan, holding mala beads? Or perhaps the monks of Burma sitting silently en masse, in a state of deep transcendence?

Yes, there are more spiritual and ceremonial ways to go about meditation, but no, that is not what meditation is. Meditation is quite simply a technique (of which there are many) by which we bring the mind into stillness, forsaking all distractions. It takes practice, and it can take some trial and error to discover which meditation technique works best for you, but meditation is for anyone and everyone. It can be practised anywhere, any time, in any outfit. It even works without incense.

Meditation is by no means merely a relaxation technique. Yes, it has been proven to aid in stress management, but more than that, meditation physically alters the brain. Studies show that the anterior cingulate cortex - which helps control impulses and maintain attention - increases in mass through meditation practice. This is hugely significant when we consider how much of a problem workplace distraction has become. If you’re really honest with yourself, are you anywhere near as productive and focused during your day as you could be? The answer from the overwhelming majority would be no. And this is why I infuse meditation throughout my work on an individual and corporate level to optimise clients’ ability to focus on whatever we’re trying to achieve.

What’s more, meditation can also be a wonderful tool to improve creative cooperation. Studies have shown that meditation significantly helps reduce aggression and irritability, while dramatically improving the capacity for compassion towards others and oneself. Just imagine how much better every meeting or workshop would go if all the attendees were regular meditators? Fewer ego-driven interjections, fewer conflictual interactions which only serve to hinder progress. Just more open, considerate cooperation. And of course, with the brain better able to fend of distraction, inspired ideas flow more readily.

In the work I do with private and corporate clients, I infuse meditation and other simple wellness principles to ensure that at the end of any session, each and every participant feels energised, refreshed and relaxed.

If you know, reading this, that you could do with some help with stress management and productivity (hint, that’s all of us), here’s how you can start with a very simple meditation technique:

  • Simply find a comfortable seat, making sure the spine is tall and the shoulders are relaxed
  • Close down the eyes and take a few moments to settle into a deep, steady breath through the nose. Try to relax the belly and invite the breath deeper than the chest
  • Begin to count the length of your breaths. Start at a count of 3 per inhale and exhale and if that’s far too easy, try 6
  • Find your number and stay there, just counting out the length of your breaths
  • Don’t worry if your mind wanders, just acknowledge it and move back to the breath
  • Have a timer set so you don’t have to sneak a peak at a clock
  • Start with 5 minutes and increase by a few minutes each time, working up to 20 or even 30!

As with any new practice, don’t be afraid to be a beginner. It takes some time and patience to see the results, but it’ll be more than worth it.