Pay Attention: Success and failure

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This month’s experiment is all about mindfulness.  I am meditating alongside my work for a month to see how this affects my happiness, stress and productivity.

So far I’ve had mixed results.

Last week, every hour or so, I meditated for ten minutes.  I did this just on the floor in my office and the team knew for those few minutes I was out of bounds.  For a couple of the sessions I just sat quietly, setting an alarm to signify when the 10 minutes was up.  And for a few, I used the Headspace app and specifically just followed Andy’s “Take Ten” programme.  If you’re new to meditation, I’d recommend this as the perfect way to demystify it.  I have dabbled in meditation for a few years, but I’m still most comfortable with “guided meditation” (where someone is gently guiding you through, as opposed to when you’re just on your own and don’t know what to do), but it’s really personal preference.

Thursday and Friday last week were interesting.  I set out with the same intentions on both days.  I’m still playing catch up a fair bit from my “60 Minutes” experiment so there’s plenty of work backlog to get through.

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On Thursday, the whole day felt so purposeful. I got loads done, I untangled some stuff that I have been struggling with and procrastinating over for a few weeks and finished the day feeling clearer and more in control than I have for a while (well, certainly since the last time I could work for more than 60 minutes a day!).  It felt as if the meditation was constantly allowing me to breathe – constantly bringing my focus back to what was important – keeping me calm and in the groove.

A great day.

On Friday, I arrived at the office with my mind racing after my improvised comedy stage debut the night before and a little bit groggy and tired after three beers the night before (this is unusual as  I’ve been basically teetotal all year, save for a few pints of beer at the behest of the dice.  Still, I felt good about repeating Thursday’s exploits, powering on and having another great day.

But I couldn’t focus.  My mind was flitting.  I was finding the meditation sessions really tough.  I didn’t want to do it.  I was agitated.  I would start and then get bored rather than start and ease myself into it.  Ten minutes can be a long time when your mind is racing.

I’m a big believer in ‘que sera’ when it comes to productivity.  I’ve spent years beating myself up when I don’t meet my own high standards, and yet it doesn’t get me anywhere.  Attention is a precious resource and some days, well, you just don’t have that resource at your disposal.  So I clocked off early, called the day out as being a failure and headed home.

Was Thursday great because I meditated or because I had attention and energy anyway?  Was Friday bad because I was tired or because I didn’t meditate properly and create the attention I needed?  As the month goes on, I hope to find out.

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