From Google to Goldman Sachs, the business world has embraced mindfulness in a big way. And it's no surprise.
Top executives know that a decrease in stress over today's worries, and a decrease in anxiety over tomorrow's potential woes, paves the way for mental clarity, creative thinking, higher-level awareness for better decision making, restful sleep and in general a more productive, happier employee that performs to somewhere near his or her full potential.
But what about entrepreneurs: The startups, the small businesses, one-man bands, the big angel investors, even — those out in the wilderness on their own, taking risks and trying to change the world in their own little (or big) way. How can mindfulness help these guys?
I guess I should know, because I guess I am one.
Here's 10 things I've learnt…
1. Don't be a sleep hero
The mythical stories of those successful people who sleep just 4 hours a night have encouraged a generation of sleepless budding entrepreneurs.
The reality is that very few people have the gene that allows for such little sleep, and sleep in the medium and long term is as important as eating in the short term.
Don’t be a hero: Don’t push yourself to the limits every day with coffee, working into the small hours and putting your body under stress. You will end up sick, not to mention putting your health at risk.
Lack of sleep affects your cognitive ability. You will be unable to think clearly and decisively and therefore unable to make important decisions with the clarity they require.
Go to bed early. Wake up early. Don’t fight tiredness; embrace it. If you need a nap, take one. But if you feel like you need a nap every day, you probably aren’t getting the sleep you need in the night time.
2. Escape your inbox
Email is a fantastic method of efficient communication, but can become a hindrance to productivity. The more people that went your eyes on their emails the more of your day you’ll spend tapping away in your inbox.
Filter your emails into folders, prioritising only those that need answering immediately or by the end of the day.
Don’t feel you have to answer every email either. Of course, it’s wonderful to help others and give your time to assisting the progress of others, but if it’s at the continual cost of your own productivity, focus and essential daily tasks, and your sanity, then you need to prioritise.
3. Set-aside “thinking time”
Don’t be a slave to your calendar and to-do list. Set aside time at least twice a week for thinking and flexing your creative muscle.
I’m willing to bet that if you look back at your achievements and the things that have made the crucial differences in reaching your goals, you’ll see that the majority of these things grew out of light bulb moments – when your brain had space to explore the valleys of its creativity.
4. Take a moment to cultivate belief
You have to believe in what you’re doing and know why you’re doing it. If you don’t, you’re either doing the wrong things or in the wrong line of work.
The fact is: you’re a long time dead; so make this life count. Don’t chase dollars just for the sake of it. Make sure you believe that what you are doing is providing a valuable contribution to the daily lives of others and the planet.
Stop in your tracks at least once a week to sit down and remind yourself of why you’re doing what you do.
For some it helps to write a mission statement. Keep this in your wallet or purse for moments of mental conflict and whip it out and read it out loud to re-center.
Work never feels like work when you’re passionate about what you’re doing and believe in your cause.
In life’s most challenging moments, it is this belief that will pull you through and recharge your batteries for the next battle.
5. Center your focus each morning
Focus isn’t just about sitting at a computer screen for hours, forcing yourself to tap away and hold your bladder until the top of the hour. Focus is a broader commitment to yourself to see a task through and take the necessary steps to get there.
This focus exists at all times, even when not at your computer and not in a meeting. It’s in your attitude, your way of thinking, your approach to life in general. It’s a mind-set, a constant, a part of your energy ecosystem.
Set aside time to cultivate focus through meditation. A morning session before you even start work is ideal.
6. Never engage in emotional decision making
Don’t make decisions on days you feel angry, overly stressed, anxious or generally emotional imbalanced.
Make life-changing decisions, not when you’re on a super high or when down in the dumps, but when you’re treading the middle road of emotional balance.
Better to put off important decisions until tomorrow that to rush into them with a hot head today.
7. Embrace your identify, not that of others
Don’t doubt yourself over the way you look. There is no stereotypical look for an entrepreneur or “successful person”. Too many people spend far too much time looking at the way those they admire look, wishing they could emulate their charisma and style.
Instead, spend this time embracing your unique qualities: strengths, flaws and quirks. Let them flourish and grow with you and your ideas. Don’t model yourself on others. You are a unique circumstance of Mother Nature. Be you, and enjoy it.
8. Get out there & make real-world connections
Many entrepreneur books paint a picture of a maverick, a lone-ranger, an outsider, the James Dean of business, perhaps.
But life is about people. The most exciting, fun, interesting and memorable times we have in life are spent with others, not on Twitter or Facebook. So it makes no sense to lock yourself away in an office every day and cut off the outside world of possibility.
Endeavour to get out into the real world at least twice a week. It doesn’t have to be business-related, like a seminar, networking event or a meeting. How about coffee with a friend, visiting your aunty, playing sport, speed dating, whatever – just get out there and make real-world connections.
We are tribal, sociable beings. Submit to this primal need to connect with people. Your business life will thrive two-fold because of it.
9. Don’t be afraid/shy to ask for help
We all need a helping hand from time to time. Whether stress has beaten us down and we need to vent over green tea on some issues, or we need strategic direction from someone who has been there, done it and worn the t-shirt, don’t be afraid to ask for someone’s ear.
Those close to you will no doubt be happy you asked, and you’ll be surprised at just how generous outsiders can be with their advice too. Sure, some people are always “too busy”, or just too far up their own bottoms to help a fellow human, but the large majority of people will feel privileged that you asked and, as I mentioned in point 8, will enjoy making a human connection.
10. Keep a tidy office (mind)
Whether you have a proper office, just a laptop that you use in cafes, parks and wherever else you choose to lay your hat, or one of these awesome standing desks, a tidy entrepreneur’s office means a tidy entrepreneur’s mind.
Get rid of the clutter. Limit your workspace to related items only: books, files, tech, etc.; no dead socks, last week’s cups and plates or relics that should be in the attic.
This means inside your laptop and phone too. Clear up that desktop and downloads folder once a week, and delete apps you no longer need.
A minimal, well-organised workplace is conducive to a mind-set of the same; a place for strategic, critical, creative thinking.