Stop everything you’re doing right now. Can you? If I had to guess, I’d say you’re doing at least two things right now, probably more. You’re checking email, reading a bit of this post, creating an outline for a plan you have to have done by the end of the day, eating your lunch and are maybe on a conference call on mute.
That’s a lot. And your salad dressing is probably all over your keyboard.
Are you really concentrating on any of it? When was the last time you took a deep breath?
The truth is that working in communications (and most industries, nowadays) has become a true frenzy. Things move incredibly quickly, and technology has us so connected to one another that we’re always on the hook for something. We spend so much time thinking about the past (“Did I remember to send out that file?”) or living in the future (“I can’t wait to be done with this project”) that we forget to be in the present. Sometimes we feel pressure to live and work in this harried state of being. Sometimes we’re even rewarded or esteemed for it. But that’s not right. It’s not healthy, and it doesn’t allow you to do your best work.
Instead of trying to do everything at once, try practicing mindfulness.
When you are in the present moment, practicing mindfulness, a lot of great things happen. You get a break from discursive thinking—that voice in your head playing out worst-case scenarios or criticism you might receive. You’re more engaged in activities and events as they happen, creating a greater capacity to deal with adverse situations, should they actually occur. Your compassion and understanding for those you work with increases. And probably the most exciting of the benefits, your creativity valve opens up, allowing you to access new ideas and creative directions.
Try this easy mindfulness exercise from Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk, peace activist and proponent of mindfulness. Say the phrases silently to yourself along with deep breaths:
Breathing in, I calm my body. [Breathe in]
Breathing out, I smile. [Breathe out]
Dwelling in the present moment, [Breathe in]
I know this is a wonderful moment. [Breathe out]
You’ll be surprised at how much this simple exercise, or even just taking the time to take in one deep breath and refocus, can calm and center you when you’re having a crazy day. So put down the fork and phone and pen. Stop cheating yourself. It really is true that the only moment we have is the present one. It’s the only place learning takes place, enjoyment occurs, or creativity sparks. It is certainly the only place great work gets done.