Five years ago, “perfection” in the advertising profession looked like a woman on a conference call, sending an email, refilling her coffee in a pencil skirt while nonverbally acknowledging her peer in the kitchen – all at once. The pinnacle of success was embodied in flawless multitasking and crossing off the longest to-do list. Now everything is about “being in the moment” – and for good reason.
But this leaves the pressing question: With all this mindfulness and presence, how are we supposed to get anything done?
Believe me, I get it. In an industry where we’re balancing multiple clients and campaigns, and constantly concepting potentially “breakthrough” ideas while on your commute to another meeting, the idea of throwing “mindfulness” on top of that list triggers an immediate shortness of breath.
My mindfulness to-do list is stressing me out lately. The pressure to do it all and do it all “with presence” can be overwhelming. It feels like I have get it all done AND make 6am yoga with a spirulina protein pack and a mindfulness mantra. And don't forget to download that audiobook on “coping with anger” because all of this pressure is bringing me to the brink.
Thankfully, being present and being productive aren't mutually exclusive – and the benefits are clear. The advantages of mindfulness in my creative profession are prioritizing what’s important, not getting easily emotionally upset, not being owned by the need to check things off a list and a greater ability to connect with people – and myself – so I can trust my intuition and make decisions with more confidence.
Are you ready put yourself at the top of your own to-do list? Here are five behaviors you can apply to bring mindfulness into your work so you can keep the momentum (and your sanity).
Stop Multitasking. Start Monotasking.
When we do many things, we don’t do them as well as we could. Monotasking simply feels better. We are programmed for it. Put all your energy on one task and try being fully present in that meeting. You’ll experience less anxiety and more productivity and you’ll wind up accomplishing more.
Focus vs. Obsession
When your mind fixates on your endless to-do list, softly bring it back. “It will all get done” or “one thing at a time” are mantras that can help you cope with the stress of mounting meetings and lists. I have a piece of paper that reminds me to breathe, very visible on my desk. Between constant calls, texts, DMs and calendar invites you can forget to breathe. Mantras and reminders help keep you centered and focused on the task at hand.
Acceptance vs. Perfection
Don’t be afraid to put off for tomorrow what you can do today. You only have so much energy in a day, you need to be careful what you spend it on. Think of it as a kind of purposeful procrastination. Write your to-do list, then look at it. What can be done next week? Do you really need to have that meeting today? Get used to not accomplishing everything. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It means you are taking action to make mindfulness and happiness your priority.
Minimize vs. Maximize
You don’t have to do it all. In fact, you shouldn’t do it all. Maybe you skip spin class and go for a long walk instead. That can be your mindful action for the day. Figure out the one thing you can do to yield the best results for your mind and body and lean into that. Simply making the decision to do less might just be the calm you needed today.
“To-Be” vs.“To-Do” Lists
You have mastered the to-do list, but what about the “to-be” list? Write a list of things you want to feel and a list of experiences you want to have. Keep them visible on your desk. Would you rather be the kind of person on their death bed who finished all your “to-do”s or all of your “to be”s? We all have to get things done. But after you get the pressing things out of the way, take time to plan a weekend away, a dinner at home or a think about a feeling you want to have. If you want to “feel excited to see someone” or “be inspired by travel,” let that inform your next action.
It’s all about balance. Try to incorporate even one of these habits and it can make a big difference on your daily mindset. Understand that if these behavior and mindset modifications appear small and obvious, they’re hugely important – which you learn when you invest in even one of them. Make the important things visible. Breathe. You will get it all done. You always do. But wouldn’t it be amazing if you actually enjoyed life while checking off your list?
Your sense of being is more important than all the doing in the world.
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