Welcome 2015 – a New Year invites us to set new intentions, navigate a new course and improve the way we manage our personal and professional lives. I recently saw a segment on 60 Minutes where Anderson Cooper attends a workshop on how to practice mindfulness (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/mindfulness-anderson-cooper-60-minutes), a concept less about spirituality and more about concentration: the ability to quiet your mind, focus your attention on the present, and dismiss any distractions that come your way.
As explained in The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/16/opinion/sunday/the-power-of-concentration.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0) the formulation dates from the work of the psychologist Ellen Langer, who demonstrated in the 1970s that mindful thought could lead to improvements on measures of cognitive function and even vital functions in older adults.
I have enjoyed learning more about this practice, but how does one actually put it to work? For my professional life in a boutique PR firm, I would embrace the ability to occasionally quiet my mind and focus my attention on the present – and it would be amazing to improve my cognitive function – all of this would certainly benefit my clients and my business.
So after a great deal of thought on the subject, here are a few ways I am going to practice mindfulness in 2015.
1. Forget about multi-tasking.
After years of feeling fully confident that I can do 10 things at once — talk on the phone, email, and write my to-do list, I am saying goodbye to multi-tasking. Let’s see what happens when I focus on one project until it comes to a natural stopping point before starting the next one. Granted there may be situations that arise somewhat suddenly, but I am going to do my best to complete one thing at a time. I will get back to you to let you know how this worked out.
2. Remember to breathe.
Even the most basic yoga classes remind you that “it’s all in the breath,” and I am going to try to take that to heart – or lungs in this case. Would it be so crazy to stop in the middle of a late breaking news release to reflect and take a breath? I think not – on the contrary, a moment’s pause might even improve the writing. It might offer a chance to think of a few more points to add to that media response, or to provide a client with calm advice in a crisis. Yes, you have permission to breathe.
3. Do something you love…every day.
You know the old adage about putting the oxygen mask on before you try and help someone else? I am going to try and listen to it and to do the things that give me oxygen. Reading, yoga and running are three activities that pump me up for the day, wake up my mind and body and improve my mood and alertness. And talking to my long distance children by phone or Facetime simply gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling. So instead of putting those things off due to meetings, deadlines and lack of time – I am going to try and do MORE of those things.
I can already hear my inner Puritan sternly commanding that I steer away from this nonsense and get back to work. But if all the experts are right, shouldn’t these steps lead to a more fulfilling, productive professional (and personal) life? And won’t all this help me to become an even more focused and effective PR professional? There’s only one way to find out!
What are you going to do to improve your work life in 2015?