5 Ways Meditation Can Improve Productivity
For someone who wants to lead a surrendered and calm life I sure resisted meditation for the longest time. I was always intrigued by the health and stress reduction benefits of meditation. But I also felt hesitant because of religious association, and the commercialization of an ancient spiritual practice.
Luckily, I got over my resistance eight years ago and started meditating. Then I dropped it when I didn’t feel any different. Luckily, again, I returned to meditation about five years ago. And I’ve been consistent ever since.
Do I feel calmer? Sometimes. Am I less anxious? Sometimes. In my personal experience, stress comes and goes in waves—depending on what’s going on in my life at the moment.
The thing that kept me going is realizing that there are other benefits (maybe accidental) that I want to share with you today.
Before the benefits, I just want to highlight one point. The main practice is to sit still for a while and make it a daily habit. You can call it meditation, stillness, contemplation, reflection, or anything else.
Just sit alone for a short while (I do 20 minutes twice daily) and breathe. It’s time for you to be, without any pressure or expectations.
Now on to the improvements that have motivated me to keep going with meditation.
Five productivity improvements
I can attribute the following improvements, at least in part, to having a consistent daily meditation practice.
1. Enhanced focus
Sitting still for 20 minutes twice a day makes it easy to sit and do one thing for at least the same length of time.
I’m able to sit and write, or work on any project for more than 20 minutes without getting fidgety or feeling bored. It wasn’t easy in the beginning. But with time, we build our stillness muscle, which in turn allows us to focus on what we’re doing.
2. Disassociation from interruptions
Meditating allows us to notice the thoughts that interrupt our focus, and letting them go without being sucked into them.
This is a very valuable skill to have when we’re working on something important. We notice a passing thought, we might write it down to follow up later, or completely ignore it. And we get back to what’s in front of us.
The result is a more efficient and effective work process.
Thoughts will come and go during meditation. Some thoughts are random, but most are recurring, and relate to our lives.
There might be thoughts of overwhelm about all the things we have to do. Or fearsome thoughts about the things we didn’t do.
As we become more aware of the recurring thought patterns, we can prioritize our choices and actions. So we either work on some of the things that keep coming up. Or we make a conscious choice to drop them. Becoming clear on what’s important, and what’s not, is the first step in leading a productive and meaningful life.
4. Sticking with it and forming habits
When we work on one habit, we strengthen the mental and emotional muscles of forming habits in any area of life. Being able to sit still and meditate day in and day out will make it easier to start and stick to another habit or action.
We become more comfortable with changing our behavior and taking on new challenges. We also become better skilled in dealing with resistance, fear and doubt—all will show up at one point or another during meditation. So we improve our chances of sticking with any action and seeing it through to completion.
5. Problem solving and inspiration
Think of meditation as a bath for the mind. We step out of thinking and working, and we do something seemingly mundane. And we come up with ideas when we least expect them.
I get ideas for writing, or insights about investments out of the blue when meditating. These sparks of inspiration can lead to creative and practical solutions that otherwise would’ve evaded us.
Meditation may not turn you into a Zen monk, or a picture of calm and peace. But it can enhance other areas of your life.
Take some time to be still with your thoughts and feelings. No one is watching or judging or expecting anything from you—just you being with you. If nothing else, you’ll become comfortable with your own company.