We live in an exciting world but are starved of conventional wisdom. We often forget to step back and think; to be mindful of what we are doing, why we are doing it and how best to do it. The truth is that we would be far more productive if we incorporated mindfulness in to our daily practice. So, what's stopping us? It's a self imposed and sometimes wholly imposed need to be productive, quickly. We know that information is growing at an unprecedented rate. Yet, we're thinking less as the world around us becomes increasingly complex.
We are expected to respond to everything immediately. So much demands our attention, right now. Thoughts in their infancy, which could be the formation of the 'next big thing', a great idea, inspiration which could change the way we work, are interrupted. Our attention is scattered by our buzzing mobiles, the landlines, the rolling news headline (important or not), the ping of a tweet, of a Facebook status update and the emails coming in from numerous accounts. We are expected to respond immediately and we accept this as the norm. The outcome is that it steals our focus. We might stretch our octopus arms across eight things at once but does it mean we get it done more quickly and with the best outcome? Probably not. Productivity depends on being fully present with a task - of knowing that it's important and committing to it. Having our attention called away might mean that we miss something.
If we're living on the edge, there's a chance we'll fall off.
Is there an alternative though? Isn't this just the way life is? It's about being in control of all of that digital input. It's there to help us, to make us more efficient - we need to pick up the reins, rather than let it whip us. With every new request that comes in, we need to assign it a relevance and a priority. I coach using a 'diamonds, gold and lead' exercise. Each task is put in to a category - real diamonds, rough diamonds, gold, false gold and lead. Many of us spend disproportionate amounts of time working on the false gold or lead activities simply because we haven't stopped to examine it. We end up losing focus on what's really valuable and our work is less sparkling, as a result.
One of the best ways to be mindful when it comes to how much time you spend being digitally active - logging on to Facebook, surfing the internet, trawling through Twitter (all in the name of work research, obviously) is to become aware of where your actions are taking you. Being conscious about the amount of time you spend online and why you're there is crucial to being more efficient in the present and also from now on in. Consider what your day looks like over a 24-hour period. Are you happy with it? Can you justify that time as valuable and is it contributing to feeling great about yourself - a key feature of true productivity?
You may have come to understand that being online is crucial to your success but being aware of what's energising you and what's not will significantly help. Productivity is about being in the zone - excited by what you are doing. It's knowing that you are firing on all cylinders and giving your absolute focus to the task in hand. It may be that you need to step away - to consider a world away from your laptop. Give your mind some space. Your head will become clearer and you'll reduce your stress levels, which we know takes its toll on our health. Taking a digital break will help provide clarity on your priorities. Unplugging before you go to sleep and not connecting as soon as you wake up will help you to achieve real focus on what's important in the coming day and not be distracted by what is important to someone else, somewhere else.
These tips are from the bestselling book 'Get Productive!' by Magdalena Bak-Maier designed to dramatically raise personal productivity on healthy, responsible and balanced terms. The book is based on carefully designed and progressively deeper exercises, to help individuals and leaders navigate busy lives.
Get Productive!, published by Wiley Capstone is available at £12.99 through Amazon and bookshops.
Magdalena Bak-Maier is an educator, executive coach and speaker, delivered through her business: 'Make Time Count'.
Magdalena is running an evening workshop in London on November 19. Book at www.eventbrite.co.uk.
More information at www.maketimecount.com