Tag - Well-Being

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Paige Baggett-Riggins, a self-proclaimed "Information Junkie," is addicted to the exploration of all modalities that improve our mind, body and spirit. She relies on a daily mindfulness practice to control her "speed eating" habit and the constant urge to add more to her ever increasing book "situation."

Manage Your Attention, Not Your Time

Manage Your Attention

With so many stimuli competing for attention, any hope for making it through the day without our brains feeling like scrambled eggs rests on being more conscious of how you parse attention over specific tasks. Here are three ways to keep your focus flowing.

If there is any one ‘secret’ to effectiveness, it is concentration.
-Peter F. Drucker, management philosopher

“At the end of the day, my brain feels like scrambled eggs!” admitted Phil, an attorney at whose firm I teach. He, like many, was living out the effects of what it means to not prioritize attention in the workday. When distractions abound how do you find focus to get something done?

Make Attention a Priority

My previous post explored what attention is and why it’s important to both quality of life and fundamental effectiveness. Attention is the basic resource or energy you have to invest in your experience. You are what you attend to. It’s that simple.

Let’s go “Big Picture” for a moment. Managing attention has not been on our radar screens because until recently most of us took it for granted. Education has largely emphasized skills for thinking and underemphasized, or ignored altogether, the skills of attending, seeing, and perceiving (let alone feeling). Look at what gets cut from school budgets when times are tough: Arts, sports, and music are the domains that cultivate perception, focus, and their relationship to performance. For good or for ill, we are an “I think therefore I am” culture. Given that, it’s easy to see how even the so-called “well-educated” can overlook attention.

A New Way to Think about What “Well-Educated” Means

Management philosopher Peter F. Drucker understood that going forward truly educated (and effective) people “will need trained perception fully as much as analysis.” In a quickly-changing world, effective people will need to clearly see as much as clearly think. The starting point of this is managing attention and focus. So many stimuli compete for attention, any hope for effectiveness rests on being more conscious of how you use it alone and together with others.

This series of posts intends to create the talking points for you to have a conversation with those you work and live with to make a priority around attention. The more you do that, the better able you will be to stay true to your goals, perform toward your best, and engage the world in a meaningful way.

So many stimuli compete for attention, any hope for effectiveness rests on being more conscious of how you use it alone and together with others.

1. Manage Attention Not Time

People tend to think managing time forms the foundation for able action. Even Drucker thought, “Time is an executive’s scarcest and most precious resource.” However, I believe this is a misperception. Who actually can manage time? Can you make the future come faster or return to the past? Unless you’re a sci-fi hero, no. What people actually do in the flow of time is manage attention.

For example, Phil may block off several hours to work on a case, but if he spends those hours obsessing over baseball stats, we say he mismanaged his time. In reality, his attention wasn’t where it needed to be. No one manages time. We manage our attention.

This point may seem like nitpicking, but I believe it is vital because it gives you a lever you can actually pull. What follows are real-life strategies developed by my students and clients that have worked for them.

2. Name Your Priorities

This sounds simple, but I’ve observed that we don’t name them frequently enough. All too often, we allow the momentum of whatever we’ve been doing to make our decisions for us. Habits are great as long as they’re serving our true intentions or a situation’s real needs. Otherwise, we wake up and go through the motions while missing the important things.

So, the first and most essential step is knowing what your intentions are. Ask yourself: “What’s vital for me to put energy on right now”?” or “Is this the best use of my energy?” These questions can help clarify what’s essential. Intentions also help to say “no” to the less important (but perhaps more urgent). Clarifying intentions brings greater direction to investing energy.

Habits are great as long as they’re serving our true intentions or a situation’s real needs. Otherwise, we wake up and go through the motions while missing the important things.
Ask yourself these questions to clarify your priorities:

What are you doing to prioritize your day and develop an action plan when you are inevitably interrupted?
What is okay to say “no” to?
How will you handle interruptions when they arise?
Do you hold an assumption that you must respond to any interruption?
Are you afraid you will be disliked/unloved/fired if you fail to respond immediately to an email?
I’ve consistently found that people have far more latitude in saying no or “later” to incoming requests than they realize.

Priorities apply both to the short- and long-term. In the moment, it means choosing where attention should focus right now. Finish this memo due tomorrow or look-up that Yoda quote you can’t quite recall?

In the long run, where we put our attention is central to a sense of meaning and purpose. Is Phil’s diversion into baseball stats and not writing law briefs a sign that maybe he’s bored with being a lawyer? Is there something else he’d rather be doing?

In the long run, where we put our attention is central to a sense of meaning and purpose.

3. Conduct an Attention Audit to Improve Focus

Knowing where attention should go isn’t going to help if you can’t stay there. Distractions destroy focused attention. While I’m not convinced it’s possible to entirely remove them, it is possible to make great strides in creating an environment that promotes and protects attention.

Look at your environment and what is there to support focus or hinder it. Evelyn, a frustrated marketing executive, looked at her workspace through the lens of attention. She immediately noticed that the office copy machine was placed outside her door. The dots connected. She was frustrated because while waiting for their copies, her well-intentioned colleagues would stick their head in her door and chat. This happened several times an hour and she could rarely find focused flow. Eureka! A phone call to facilities to move the machine and she finally enjoyed a day of satisfying concentration.

Look around, what can you do right now? Do you work in an open office environment? What signals can you send that say, “Don’t bother me?”

These steps are only the beginning. Each of these strategies can be built out and expanded upon. The next post will dive into deeper detail.

Remember, be patient with yourself as you start this process. These essential skills take time to cultivate and explore to find the strategies that help each of us stay effective in turbulent times.


Jeremy Hunter, PhD is Founding Director of the Executive Mind Leadership Institute and Associate Professor of Practice at the Peter F. Drucker Graduate School of Management in Claremont, CA. His pioneering courses on Self-Management build on Peter Drucker’s assertion “before you can manage anyone else, you have to manage yourself first.” He has been awarded Professor of the Year five times. When in need of life-saving surgery over a dozen former students stepped forward as organ donors.

Mindful Market Introduces the “Global Good” initiative

Global Good

Mindful Market is a 2-way marketplace that loves serving small heart-centered businesses that enrich well-being and the planet.  We embrace conscious consumerism & conscious capitalism.

Mindful Market is now also a tool that elevates humanity by promoting
USA Local Vendors, regional, and global initiatives and movements.

We are excited to align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).  The SDG is a call for action by ALL countries (poor, rich, and middle income) to promote prosperity while protecting the planet.

Read More

How Do I Quiet My Mind?

Quiet My Mind

4-Step Guide To Finding Inner Peace And Quieting Your Mind

Haven’t we all said at one time: “If only I could have a little peace and quiet!” We live in a noisy, chaotic, vibrant world – with many distractions. Sometimes, we just need to “turn off the chatter, and focus on what matters.”

For me, the simpler the better. Read More

Are You Using Social Media Mindfully?

Social Media Mindfully

How to Use Social Media Mindfully and Wisely

Let’s be honest,  how many of us reach for our cell phones first thing in the morning to check our favorite social media mindfully – instead of spending a few minutes in quiet contemplation and present awareness?

Social media helps keep us connected and, yet, disconnected at the same time. Here’s some insight into how we can be more mindful of how we can use our “screen time” mindfully.

By: Ravi Chandra | January 23, 2018

It was no one other than Facebook’s former vice president for user growth, Chamath Palihapitiya, who advised people to take a “hard break” from social media. “We have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,” he said recently.

His comments echoed those of Facebook founding president Sean Parker. Social media provides a “social validation feedback loop (‘a little dopamine hit…because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post’),” he said. “That’s exactly the thing a hacker like myself would come up with because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”

Are their fears overblown? What is social media doing to us as individuals and as a society?

Since over 70 percent of American teens and adults are on Facebook and over 1.2 billion users visit the site daily – with the average person spending over 90 minutes a day on all social media platforms combined – it’s vital that we gain wisdom about the social media genie, because it’s not going back into the bottle. Our wish to connect with others and express ourselves may indeed come with unwanted side effects.

The problems with social media

Social media is, of course, far from being all bad. There are often tangible benefits that follow from social media use. Many of us log on to social media for a sense of belonging, self-expression, curiosity, or a desire to connect. Apps like Facebook and Twitter allow us to stay in touch with geographically dispersed family and friends, communicate with like -minded others around our interests, and join with an online community to advocate for causes dear to our hearts.

Honestly sharing about ourselves online can enhance our feelings of well-being and online social support, at least in the short term. Facebook communities can help break down the stigma and negative stereotypes of illness, while social media, in general, can “serve as a spring board” for the “more reclusive…into greater social integration,” one study suggested.

But Parker and Palihapitiya are on to something when they talk about the addictive and socially corrosive qualities of social media. Facebook “addiction” (yes, there’s a test for this) looks similar on an MRI scan in some ways to substance abuse and gambling addictions. Some users even go to extremes to chase the highs of likes and followers. Twenty-six-year-old Wu Yongning recently fell to his death in pursuit of selfies precariously taken atop skyscrapers.

Facebook can also exacerbate envy. Envy is nothing if not corrosive of the social fabric, turning friendship into rivalry, hostility, and grudges. Social media tugs at us to view each other’s “highlight reels,” and all too often, we feel ourselves lacking by comparison. This can fuel personal growth, if we can turn envy into admiration, inspiration, and self-compassion; but, instead, it often causes us to feel dissatisfied with ourselves and others.

For example, a 2013 study by Ethan Kross and colleagues showed quite definitively that the more time young adults spent on Facebook, the worse off they felt. Participants were texted five times daily for two weeks to answer questions about their well-being, direct social contact, and Facebook use. The people who spent more time on Facebook felt significantly worse later on, even after controlling for other factors such as depression and loneliness.

Interestingly, those spending significant time on Facebook, but also engaging in moderate or high levels of direct social contact, still reported worsening well-being. The authors hypothesized that the comparisons and negative emotions triggered by Facebook were carried into real-world contact, perhaps damaging the healing power of in-person relationships.

More recently, Holly Shakya and Nicholas Christakis studied 5,208 adult Facebook users over two years, measuring life satisfaction and mental and physical health over time. All these outcomes were worse with greater Facebook use, and the way people used Facebook (e.g., passive or active use, liking, clicking, or posting) didn’t seem to matter.

“Exposure to the carefully curated images from others’ lives leads to negative self-comparison, and the sheer quantity of social media interaction may detract from more meaningful real-life experiences,” the researchers concluded.

How to rein in social media overuse

So, what can we do to manage the downsides of social media? One idea is to log out of Facebook completely and take that “hard break.” Researcher Morten Tromholt of Denmark found that after taking a one-week break from Facebook, people had higher life satisfaction and positive emotions compared to people who stayed connected. The effect was especially pronounced for “heavy Facebook users, passive Facebook users, and users who tend to envy others on Facebook.”

Some people I’ve spoken with find ways of cleaning up their newsfeeds -from hiding everyone but their closest friends to “liking” only reputable news, information, and entertainment sources.
We can also become more mindful and curious about social media’s effects on our minds and hearts, weighing the good and bad. We should ask ourselves how social media makes us feel and behave, and decide whether we need to limit our exposure to social media altogether (by logging out or deactivating our accounts) or simply modify our social media environment. Some people I’ve spoken with find ways of cleaning up their newsfeeds -from hiding everyone but their closest friends to “liking” only reputable news, information, and entertainment sources.

Knowing how social media affects our relationships, we might limit social media interactions to those that support real-world relationships. Instead of lurking or passively scrolling through a never-ending bevy of posts, we can stop to ask ourselves important questions, like What are my intentions? and What is this online realm doing to me and my relationships?

We each have to come to our own individual decisions about social media use, based on our own personal experience. Grounding ourselves in the research helps us weigh the good and bad and make those decisions. Though the genie is out of the bottle, we may find, as Shakya and Christakis put it, that “online social interactions are no substitute for the real thing,” and that in-person, healthy relationships are vital to society and our own individual well-being. We would do well to remember that truth and not put all our eggs in the social media basket.

This article is adapted from Facebuddha: Transcendence in the Age of Social Networks (Pacific Heart Books, 2017, 412 pages). This article originally appeared on Greater Good, the online magazine of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, one of Mindful’s Partners.