Monthly review – productive meditation


Meditation is part of my everyday routine now and something I truly love and look forward to. Most days I do it more than once a day but in different forms:

  • In the morning as I switch from home and family life to work, I will do an energising or focusing type of meditation. (As I mentioned in my previous post on meditation, I use the Insight Timer for my guided meditations.) I find that meditating as I change roles, helps me be more present with the role I am doing. As I don’t leave home to go to work, this acts as a circuit breaker and helps me switch my focus.
  • At night I listen to a sleep meditation which I adore. There are two I listen to, both are about 10 minutes in length, but I never hear the end of them as I am asleep! I find focusing on my breath and slowing my breathing down works a charm in turning off my mind and calming me so I can fall to sleep easily.
  • The third form of meditation is something I think I have always done, but didn’t realise it had a special name  – productive meditation. I use this to help me solve personal, family and work related issues.

So what is productive meditation?

Cal Newport author of the fantastic book Deep Work defines it as follows:

The goal of productive mediation is to take a period in which you’re occupied physically but not mentally — walking, jogging, driving, showering — and focus your attention on a single well-defined professional problem.

As I spend quite a bit of time running each week, running provides me with an opportunity to productively meditate on issues I want to solve. At the start of my run I will decide what I am going to focus on and throughout my run, that is all I allow myself to think about.

Just like in other meditations, the mind wanders. It doesn’t want to think about solving the hard problem. It starts to think about what I am going to eat later that day, about the messages I need to return on my phone or what I will do with the kids in the afternoon. And just like in other meditation practices, every time I realise my mind has wandered, I repeat the problem to myself and start thinking about how to solve it again.

Productive meditation is quite like running in many ways. How long you can do it for depends on your experience. Your brain gets tired of focusing on the same problem and at the start you might only be able to force yourself to concentrate on the issue for 15 minutes, but the more you practice, the longer you can do it for.

You also become more effective at it too the more you practice. The more I work on productive meditation the more I find that my brain can stay focused on the issue at hand and come up with solutions quicker and it is such a great feeling to come back in from a run when you have cracked a problem! Not only have you exercised,  but you have made your life easier by solving the problem too!

An example of productive meditation in practice was when I was working on some presentations earlier this year, I knew the content I wanted to share, but I was struggling to work out the best framework to structure the content in. When working on presentations I always hand write the outline and then try to find a story or narrative to run through the presentation. For the presentation I was doing on productivity, I just couldn’t come up with anything.

One long run in the early morning I made it my focus. I went over and over the content in my head. I went over and over my experience with productivity and then it came to me. If you were to just go by sound bites, top 10 tip posts etc of productivity they make it sound so easy. Simply follow their steps and you will be a productive machine. My experience however told me a different story – productivity is hard!

I had found my story to tell the presentation through – 7 hard truths of productivity. While productivity is hard, it gets easier once you embrace it. So for every hard truth of productivity I would share, I would also share a solution. I came back in from my run and wrote down the 7 truths I had come up with on my run before I forgot them and the presentation came together easily after that.

I will note though that I can only do productive meditation on my long, slow paced runs. When doing high intensity running or interval workouts, my brain is just working on running! Nor do I productively meditate every single long run I do. I save it for outstanding issues I have been struggling to resolve.

Have you tried productive meditation?

Monthly progress review

Here is the summary of how I am tracking with my goals to help me achieve my goal in 2016 to create space in my life for creativity and calm:

HabitConnection to goalMonthly progress
37 pieces of clothing per season
Decision fatigue is a real thing - less clothes to choose from will free up mental energy! I am going to simplify my wardrobe to make choosing what to wear easier and having less items in my wardrobe will give me back needed physical space. Now Melbourne looks as though Spring is finally here to stay, I have culled my wardrobe and changed over to Spring/Summer clothes.
How to simplify your wardrobe.
33 consecutive complaint free daysComplaining spreads negativity and I have so much to be grateful for. It is hard to be calm or creative when your mind is full of negativity. I have half heartedly worked on complaining less before, but to become a habit I need to track and measure it.You can read how I finally achieved it in this post -
Monthly review – planning and persevering

This is one that I always have to think about, but the effort is worth it.
33 consecutive days of meditationI have dabbled a little with meditation and it makes a huge difference to the noise in my head. It makes me feel calmer, but I am yet to do this regularly. Doing so will help create an inner calm in my life regardless of the chaos around me.You can read how I built my meditation habit here -
Monthly review – building a meditation habit

Loving meditation and the benefits it brings. I also think learning to focus on my breath is helping me recover from fast intervals when I am running too!
33 items decluttered from the house each weekOn the surface our house looks relatively clutter free, but there are over flowing cupboards and drawers. Decluttering will give me a greater feeling of space and calm.I changed my plan on how I am tackling decluttering which you can read here.

I am tackling decluttering in projects:
Oct - Kids wardrobes and toy cupboard doing it this weekend, so a little behind!
Nov - Declutter laundry and cupboard under the stairs
Dec - Clear out my stuff from the upstairs room
3 hours a week for creativityTime for creativity never made it to the top of my to do list as I didn't give it the value it deserved. If you want something to happen you have to schedule it. Met this target again this month due to some gardening and home styling stuff I have been doing with my daughter. It is a bonus really, as not only am I having fun being creative, but my daughter and I are spending more time together.

Check in time! Tell me how you are progressing with your goal for the year.

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