July 16, 2009

Mindfulness etc

I've just been doing a bit of bin-diving to rescue my copy of last week's Sunday Life magazine from the recycle bin. Sarah Wilson of Masterchef Australia writes a column and last week's was on the subject of mindfulness; a take on the 'living in the present' and 'being present' perspective. It's a good article because it did get me thinking again about the way I live my life and indeed the way I live each minute.

Sitting here in the kitchen after reading the article again, I looked at the clock and thought "three hours until I have to leave for the Osteopath - that will go in no time." As the thought had rattled through my conscious brain, I then thought "actually, no, that's heaps of time, three hours worth of cleaning or ironing (as an example)." In case you're wondering, I'm not a clean or ironing freak. The article, like many we often read throughout our lifetime did good to reset the tought patterns, as we seem to need occasionally.

Several years ago, I worked with an inspiring Project Manager who had studied human behaviour and some psycho-analysis over the years. She would often say things that at the time seems a bit cliched but years later we find ourselves quoting this person as we realise that did actually mean something at the time. To clarify, we did think they were good at the time too! Three of these 'phrases-of-wisdom' that I still try to remember are:
  • Be present
  • What's the purpose
  • When the lift door opens in the morning, I'm at work, and home is left at home (and vice versa)
In many a meeting, I remind myself to "be present" which in a way is a take on the mindfulness. The aim is to put all other thoughts away, stop thinking about what's for dinner, or what life might be like if xyz had happened, and concentrate on the meeting. It's amazing that when I do this, as simple as it sounds, the meeting seems to go much better and both the other attendees and myself get the most of out of.

Relevant to my line of work, but possibly can be used elsewhere is the response "what's the purpose?" In the my world, when working with a client replacing an old, ageing Health IT system with a new and current one, we get asked (or told) that the new system must do this, that, or the other. The same can be said for business process. One of the responses we were taught was to ask back "what's the purpose?" because often the person requiring whatever they require cannot articulate exactly why. It sometimes comes down to "because we've always done it this way" and no thought has been given to exactly why or whether it's still needed.

Driving to work is a good thinking time, even when the drive is only about 15 minutes (sorry, too far to walk in the morning!). Once I get work work, lock the car and walk up the stairs, I force myself to leave non-work stuff in the carpark, and concentrate on work. While that's often easier said than done, because calls and emails come through during the day, the aim is that while I'm at work, I concentrate on work, and when I leave work, work stuff is left behind for the next day. It's about being mindful, or present at work. I've had people work with me and for me in my team who quite obviously don't understand this, some even after discussing it in team meetings. Calls are made, bills are paid, fellow colleagues are distracted by these, or what they're packing to go on holiday. It doesn't just affect yourself, it affects those around you, allowing others to be mindful and present as well. Training family members to call between 8 and 8:30am or after 6pm unless it's urgent also helped me here too.

The mindfulness lark can apply in so many different situations, both professional and personal, and it's been tough, and in a couple of cases, just about impossible to get others at work thinking the same way, but the biggest challenge is one's self. Start working the change at home and see how different the day becomes.

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