Practicing Mindfulness in an Uncertain World — A Practical Approach

4 Ways to Invite Mindfulness in your Daily Practice

Mindfulness techniques can open doors to new beginnings. But how do we incorporate this practice in our daily lives? Some mindful experts suggest that developing your own personal practice is what’s going to make the real impact. Also, making it a daily routine and not just a “weekend special” is the secret key to success.

That being said, life has become busy for all of us in our modern world. When you are busy juggling responsibilities, coping with the many demands being asked of you, and your mind’s a blur with a billion thoughts, it might seem impossible to focus on a task and get it completed. Unfortunately, this mindset is not only unproductive, but can also have a long term impact on our well being.

Clarity is the key in any professional journey, whether we are leaders making decisions, individual contributors who play an important part in a team to design revolutionary products or product managers wearing many different hats. It all comes down to how present we can be in a given moment and how centered we can be in a passionate conversation or how grounded we could be under pressure.

The way to gain clarity is through mastering the art of mindfulness. Mindfulness provides a number of benefits, such as improved productivity, creativity and well being, and it is becoming popular at various tech companies.

What small, practical steps can we consciously take to practice self-care and achieve more balance? You can’t calm the storm, but you can calm yourself. It all starts with you.

4 Ways to Invite Mindfulness in your Daily Practice:

1. Morning Ritual: How we boot our day really sets the intention for productivity in the next 24 hours. Research shows that early mornings, the first 30–60 minutes after we wake up, are super critical to our productivity. This is when the brain is fresh for clarity and open for creativity.

For instance, taking the first 10 minutes of your morning to drink a glass or two of water in a quiet corner of your home and focusing on your breathing can be very helpful. A simple breathing exercise can be tremendously powerful — count to 10 and focus on your breathing. What happens here is that our brain is going from a driver’s seat to a watcher’s seat. It’s the metacognition ability which increases the charging effect.

Another important activity is writing intention. This is not a to-do list or detailed deck. It’s simply taking a pen and paper and writing down what you want to accomplish for the day. During the activity, we are priming our brain for what is really important. When followed by your 10 minute breathing exercise in meditation, your brain is so receptive that it will surface the most important things. The right priorities will come to light since you haven’t allowed your mind to get cluttered by checking emails and social media first thing in the morning.

The next optional activity to try is to journal fears, uncertainties and doubts. This helps with decluttering by offloading rational or irrational fears on a piece of paper. The brain gains enormous clarity and increases intuition. All these three activities take just 15 minutes from your morning ritual, but definitely have huge ROI.

2. Make the most of meetings and interactions: Although meetings can be overwhelming (and time killers sometimes), what can be really helpful is listening proactively. By demonstrating empathy, curiosity and willingness to take in new information and by being open to surprises one can bring more clarity… and ideas that can turn out to be game changers.

One simple technique of watching your breath and listening purposefully helps with being centered and grounded. Listening to stakeholders, customers and your team objectively can have a huge impact on what kind of output one can have from a particular conversation. It is always the team that builds the product and not the product manager in silos, so having good energy and being open to listening sets the team up for success for a great delivery. Also, having a positive intent helps.

These three activities don’t take any additional time. They are meta activities since you are already going to be in those meetings or interactions anyway. It’s all about being mindful and conscious.

3. Flow time: The third and most important opportunity for many of us is flow time. This is where the magic happens. This is where you would write, vision or build the roadmap. Research says that committing to a big block of time is unrealistic because the right idea won’t come to mind or that task won’t get completed when you have half of your day blocked for it. Most of the time external distractions make it hard to get the right focus, making it difficult to achieve our goals. On the other hand, instead of waiting for the bright moment to happen, start scribbling your ideas with whatever you have in mind to create momentum. This process lights up the thought chain to get the task completed.

4. Unwind: This is the time where one can celebrate wins, no matter how large or small. There is always something to be grateful for. A simple practice of journaling your three biggest wins of the day can go a long way to release the endorphins needed for a peaceful night’s sleep. Research says that having a bedtime gratitude practice is tied to good sleep and our general well being. It also helps us build a positive mindset and be more resilient.

For more on mindfulness from Deepika Sharma, read “The Era of Designing Mindful Products,” which discusses the power of mindfulness in the digital world and how it’s becoming a superpower.

Resources:

1. Search Inside Yourself — https://siyli.org
2. New Skills Academy
3. Calm App

References:

[1] Jon Kabat-Zinn- What Is This Thing Called Mindfulness?
[2] Why Mindfulness Helps You in Product by Expedia Product Manager

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