A Busy Mind Isn't Best

September 9, 2012

Too often in work, we're told if we're not busy, we're not working hard enough. We confuse the concept of busy with productive, rushing around offices and allowing stress to govern not only our emotions, but our lives. Instead of worrying whether or not we're busy enough in our daily lives, we should be examining if we're the right kind of busy. At Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, we want to ensure that you're busy mind isn't hurting your bottom line.

Sometimes being busy can feel great. When we are busy earning a living, effectively leading others, achieving academically or artistically. There is another kind of busy leaves us bored, overwhelmed and filled with a sense of failure that crazy, nonstop, way too-busy ceaseless activity that exhausts our efforts and yet leaves us feeling as if we are getting nowhere. This is what we call busyness.

When we are unhappy, busyness makes a convenient excuse so that we don't have to acknowledge what's not working in our jobs or our families.

That's not to say that there isn't tons of things to do each day. Your business needs to run; you and your children/dogs/goldfish need to eat; household items need to be fixed; and the list grows exponentially the longer you think about it.

Today, SIYLI would like you to think about doing less. No, that doesn't mean you get to lay in a chaise-lounge all day sipping tropical elixirs. It means quieting your mind so that it is not clouded with the din of busyness. The practice of doing less starts with mindfulness. It begins by noticing how busy our minds are, how easily and habitually our minds jump from thought to thought, often residing in the past or in the future anywhere but right here, right now.

Quieting the mind generally begins with taking the time to be still, to be quiet and paying attention to the breath and body. It does not mean we stop thinking, but we reduce the noise and increase our focus and concentration.
This process is like applying WD-40 to our minds. Increasing our awareness and paying conscious attention to our inner and outer life loosens the somewhat hardened or rusted parts of our thinking. Often, without even noticing, we get a bit stuck in mental habits and assumptions that underlie and drive our thinking. For example, if you have to call a coworker about a disappointing project evaluation, you may find yourself doing everything but making the call. It's not that you need to check your email eight times, or reorganize the papers in your inbox, your busyness can be a form of avoidance.

Applying some attention can loosen these patterns. This can mean increasing our ability to either narrow or expand our focus whichever is most effective and refreshing to our habitual ways of thinking. Quieting the busyness in our mind can open the door to experiencing the sacredness of life in general and our own wondrous life even in the midst of everyday activities. It is something we can practice at any time, in any moment when we want to let go of the activity-driven busyness that can make us feel so depleted.

Let's go back to that co-worker you still haven't called. Don't think of a call with dread. Really take a moment to focus your mind on the call. View it as an opportunity to help a co-worker improve their performance and brainstorm for the next project. If you view daunting tasks as opportunities and embrace them immediately, you'll be amazed how efficient you are during your day.

At SIYLI, we know that not every task you face during the day is fun, unless you contextualize the task. Before you begin something, ask yourself What is my intent?If you're feeding the dog, consider how much joy you've just brought to your hungry pup. If you're writing up an expense report, consider how much stress you're alleviating from accounting, who won't have to chase you down at the end of the month to ask for your Starbucks receipts. No matter what you're doing, someone is benefiting from your work, keep that in mind as you approach your more mundane tasks.

Once you've developed your mindful abilities, you'll find that your brain is less busy, but more effective as you go through your day. And isn't spending a few minutes a day focusing on less a small price to pay for accomplishing more? And with your improved focus and inner quiet, you might even have time to enjoy that chaise-lounge.

SIYLI Suggestion: This week, take a few minutes each day to focus on your breathing and quieting your mind. If you feel yourself being overwhelmed (ie: the phones are ringing, email is in your inbox and you remember you have a project to complete) take a few moments to focus on your breathing. As your breathe brings you back to being quiet, begin your work with a renewed focus.