A quote in a blog from Virgin.com really caught my attention: "Our mind is constantly working to give us the solutions to problems before they come, or before we have had a chance to consider what we are really presented with." As entrepreneurs, we are somewhat programmed to always be coming up with solutions. After all, we are building brands and expanding businesses--finding solutions is the best and often quickest way to move forward, right?
While being able to quickly come up with solutions is definitely a positive personality trait for today's entrepreneurs, it can also be a hindrance to our growth. Look back at the quote for a moment: "...solutions to problems before they come, or before we have had a chance to consider..." If we only focus on what is broken or lacking in our companies, we run the risk of creating problems before they even occur or creating solutions that don't quite fix the real issue. Although it might be against our entrepreneurial nature, we need to spend time each day focused on the present, embracing the day-to-day tasks and situations that could actually lead to bigger growth opportunities, instead of keeping our multitasking minds focused on what might be happening next.
But how do we do this--how does an entrepreneur stop his or her mind from constantly moving to find a quick solution? By practicing the art of mindfulness.
It has been well documented that the practice of mindfulness can be a positive force in our personal lives, but more and more studies are finding that it can also be effective in our business lives as well, especially for entrepreneurs and small business owners. If you are already feeling anxious about the idea of "meditating" while you are building your empire, relax. I have three ways to incorporate mindfulness into your work life that keeps you being productive while keeping your mind in the present.
Redefine the "Break"
Taking mini-breaks throughout the day is always a good idea, but for the ever-moving-mind of an entrepreneur, 10-minutes of stillness can seem like a lifetime. Instead of focusing on the idea that you need to be quiet and still, re-focus your attention on one thing you are physically doing. Travis Bradberry, co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, suggests directing your attention from your thoughts to your bodily sensations such as the feel of your fingers on the keyboard or your posture in your chair. "You don't even need to stop doing what you're doing to practice mindfulness," writes Bradberry. Why is this important? Our body is always in the here and now. Being aware of what we are physically feeling in the moment keeps our minds from thinking about what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow.
Resurrect the Thank You Note
Mindfulness is often thought of as an introspective activity, however, being mindful has very external benefits--especially when it comes to cultivating positive relationships. Each week, take the time to think about five people in your professional life and write each person a thank you note. Yes, write it on real paper, not an email, taking the time to consider the words you are using and the sentiments you really want to express. The more aware we become of the greatness in others, the more patient and compassionate we become with our interactions and the more others are drawn closer to us. "People want to be around others who are willing to invest time," writes Josh Misner.
"A great myth of our time is that if we multitask, we get more done and that it will be done well. Research shows that's just not true," says author Sharon Salzberg. Salzberg suggests that we "unitask" every once in awhile--focusing our attention on one task at a time. Don't update your social media networks while you drink your coffee or reply to text messages while walking to your next appointment--just do one thing at a time. This not only allows us to enjoy the small moments of our day (seriously, when was the last time you really enjoyed a cup of coffee?), but it trains our minds to stay focused in the midst of distractions and gives us the ability to be laser-focused on whatever task is at hand, a trait that every successful entrepreneur needs to master.
Finding solutions is part of running a business, but it isn't the end game of our efforts. Taking the time to be more mindful and present during our day-to-day brand building tasks will not only help strengthen our critical thinking skills, but will allow us to enjoy each moment of this entrepreneurial journey.