I started listening to Tim Ferris' podcast a while back to try and find out what "secret" formulas I was missing. If you don't know Tim Ferris, you may know his ideas: He's the man behind the 4-hour workweek and one of the biggest proponents of the 80-20 rule. He constantly asks, "What are the 20% of activities I can do to get 80% of the impact?"
In his podcast, he interviews experts about exactly that—the elements that make them successful experts.
One of the most common pieces of advice I heard? Nearly every expert across fields—authors, athletes, entrepreneurs—practiced meditation.
So, I pushed aside my doubts and the stereotypes floating around my head about mediation, and I tried it. Here's what I learned:
Meditating sets you up for productivity
Meditating each morning sets you up for a productive day. It's kind of like taking out the trash each night. All of those nagging, tiny thoughts, the ones that distract you from your day, slow down and are easier to deal with.
One metaphor used is that of logs floating down a river—your mind is the river, and the thoughts are the logs. Too many stop the river and keep it from flowing, from really thinking.
The constant stream of thoughts doesn't go away; it's how you deal with them that's different. Instead of latching on to each one as they pass and running with it, I can say, "Oh yes, that. I'll get to it later," and return to the real, impactful work I'm doing.
So, instead of being torn into a million pieces from all of the items on your to-do list, you can focus on each one, one at a time.
Meditation provides a sense of clarity
This isn't a surprise, really. But what surprised me was how quickly my mind was able to settle itself, even after a few days.
When we come to work each day, we have a lot of competing priorities. Some of them are personal—for me, I tend to be super enthusiastic about certain projects, and not so jazzed about others—and some are passed down to us by our bosses. Some of them are requests from team members to help with "this quick question." It can be difficult to sift through them all, especially as those "quick questions" can add up to your entire day.
Once I am able to focus, I can more easily see what's important and what's not. My mind finally has room to breathe so that I can think and reflect about what matters.
Prioritizing will always be challenging as things constantly shift; rather than become overwhelmed by the changes, having a clear mind from mediation allows me to pivot much more easily and settle into the new order of priorities, rather than stubbornly plowing through my to-do list all out of order.
(The Eisenhower Method helps with this, too.)
Meditation gives the mind space to be creative
Meditation opens the mind and allows you to focus, but it also clears the way for creativity. This is the biggest benefit for me, and what convinced me to start meditating in the first place. Similar to how giving the mind space allows it to be productive, so too does giving space to be creative.
Meditation teaches you how to separate your self from your thoughts. You become a watcher, noting as thoughts and feelings go by, but not making judgements on them. This technique—called noting—is perfect for brainstorming.
Instead of immediately judging an idea based on your internal monologue and bias, you can let the idea sing and take shape. You can see what the seed of an idea may grow into. You can watch your ideas float by and grab the ones that make sense or need more thought, instead of desperately trying to find a way to hold on to your ideas before they disappear. If you've ever had to jump out of the shower to write down an idea, you know what I mean.
Ideas come to us in "inconvenient" places—like the shower, or the moments before falling asleep—because those are the times the mind is finally allowed to rest, to breathe, to think. Meditating gives you control over that ability to rest.
There's quite a few apps out there to try guided meditation, but I'd totally recommend it if you're looking for a way to kickstart your creativity (and be a little healthier).
- I use Headspace, and love it
- Stop, Breathe, and Think (Bonus points for a Slack integration!)
If you're not interested in guided meditation but are looking for some of the benefits, get yourself to a nearby yoga studio (or even a treadmill!) There's a reason yoga is known as "moving meditation."
Even if you're not sure, just try it. 10 minutes out of your day. You won't regret it.