One of the peculiarities of the normal human mind is that it can only hold one thought at a time.
During the course of each day, our minds will focus on the task in hand for some of the time at least. There will be times though where we mull over past conversations or events. Our minds might wander forwards in time to what we're having for supper. We are also prone to being interrupted by thoughts that appear out of the blue.
Our internal dialogue or chatter might replay conversations where we wished we’d come up with that sharp, witty answer. Alternatively, we may be rehearsing a speech or talk we are doing in the future or an awkward conversation we've been meaning to have with our boss.
The human mind, while a wondrous thing, is a wandering time machine which constantly slips in and out of the present moment.
So how do we control this tendency for our mind to wander all by itself so that we can increase our efficiency and improve our focus?
Tom Evans, author of ‘The Authority Guide to Practical Mindfulness' published by SRA Books, believes you can improve your focus and efficiency in just 10 minutes a day:
1) Unpacking our thoughts
This is where the practice of mindfulness meditation comes in. It helps us form a new relationship with our thoughts. When we do this, we have a better chance of controlling the wonderings and wanderings of our mind.
Our brain receives external thoughts from three main sources:
The first is via our primary senses. What we see, hear and feel modulates our thoughts.
Secondly we take inputs from other parts of our neurology in the form of feelings, such as instincts, intuitions, hunger and being in love or unloved.
The third input are flashes of inspiration and enlightenment. These often pop in unannounced and unexpectedly, sometimes while out walking, or in the shower.
Some thoughts that come in can take over our mind and we can enter what is known as a ‘mindfall’. If you get awoken in the early hours with a brilliant idea, it can be impossible to go back to sleep as you run through all the ramifications. If somebody oversteps the mark and crosses a boundary, thoughts of righting that wrong can consume our waking days. If you fall either in or out of love, any thoughts of creativity can fly out of the window. In this case, not only are you in a mindfall but a ‘heartfall’ too!
2) Eyes Open Meditation
After practicing meditation for just 10 minutes a day for a week, we become better equipped to enter and remain in the meditative state with our eyes open.
When we do this, two things happen:
Firstly, time seems to expand so we get more done with less of it. The state we get into is called EMT - or Extended Me Time.
Secondly, both external and internal interruptions reduce in frequency and volume.
If you are working on something and your mind wanders, simply ask the new thought to go away and come back later when you will have time to deal with it. Don't worry that you might forget it, if it's important it will come back to you at the most perfect and relevant time.
By using mindful meditation on our lives and our businesses/careers we can be more efficient and effective because we are so much more focused. Just 10 minutes a day is all that’s needed to make a noticeable difference.