Calm Mind: Amid a High Tech World of Distraction

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In a world full of distractions – especially for those of us in the tech space who tend to geek out over the latest gadgets on Product Hunt – focusing on the task at hand can be difficult.

Fellow early adopters, these distractions are training our brains to be really good at being easily distracted. I know you have found yourself in a meeting, unable to focus, distracted by Gmail, Slack, Voxer, Twitter, etc., likely the individuals around you, possibly your team is noticing you’re only “half there”. In that moment, you are doing a disservice to the meeting and the time of the individuals present, including yourself. Like any other muscle, you must practice and exercise mindfulness if you desire to be stronger or present.

You know that constant pestering feeling in your stomach, in the back of your brain, or in the very real distractions at work that say, look at me, open me, think about Project X? If it’s not those feelings, then it’s something real always vying for your attention – like staff members asking for a moment, the dings of a text message, the little red dots on Slack. Now imagine a world where those distractions, while not completely gone, just fade to the back. That nagging feeling would be replaced by a sense of calm.

At Galvanize Boulder – yes Boulder, where we eat self-awareness and reflection up – we held a Mindfulness Meets Business Lunch & Learn.  

Here is what we learned and what I have since put into practice:

The workshop started with a ‘turn and talk’, that guided pairs to reflect on what the environment around us is like when we are in the zone or optimal flow; when we feel most productive and focused. Not surprisingly, most individuals reflections centered around the ability to focus on the task or project at hand.

When I ran a similar exercise with the Galvanize Boulder team following the workshop at our weekly campus sync, much of the comments were the same. As I sit here, in the din of chatter and distractions, I crave the opportunity to focus. But, like the majority of our staff, students, and members, I do not have four walls and a door to call an ‘office’.

So, how to achieve focus or mindfulness in a time of constant distractions?

Focused Attention Training: 1- 5 minutes, daily

  1. Find a space that is the least distracting, perhaps a phone booth, couch or outside.
  2. Get comfortable with your feet grounded, hands on your knees or resting in your lap.
  3. Close your eyes or gaze at something ~3 feet in front of you.
  4. ** Focus on your breathing – in and out.
  5. If your mind wanders, it’s ok (remember, we have trained ourselves at the art of distraction). Non-judgmentally, refocus back on your breath, in and out.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 for 1 minute, gradually increasing as you get accustomed to the practice.

** It’s harder than you think and incredibly uncomfortable at first, and that’s a-ok.

If you haven’t, I would encourage you to try the above Focused Attention Training. Go for a walking meeting, take time out of your day to go to yoga, or get a run in. The intention of focusing on the now will pay off in spades.  

Training your mindfulness muscle over time will allow for those pestering distractions to ease into the background, and you will find that your ability to focus on the task at hand will get much much easier, even given the craziness of our busy lives around us.

Give it a shot, perhaps you can commit to trying mindfulness once this next week.

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