People who work, whether for themselves or in a more traditionally structured job, have two types of time they need to manage: Their personal time so that they can set aside time for the job and their work time so that they can get as much done as possible while they are actually supposed to be working. The four steps to higher productivity that Ellen Sussman writes about in her Nov./Dec. Poets & Writers' article deals with managing time on the job.
The first step she talks about is meditating, her prewriting preparation.
Sussman says she starts workdays with 5 or 10 minutes of meditation. She talks about wanting to quiet the noise in her brain, carry peace of mind with her to her work time, and being able to hear what the muse is saying. I suspect this is kind of squishy stuff for a lot of readers. However, the line she used that connected with me was "I want focus, undistracted thought."
Once again, I think Sussman might be on to something.
I gave meditation a shot a while back because I'd read that meditating can help with concentration. The idea was that you can use meditation to help train your mind to stay with a task. If you can keep your mind focused on something as (let's face it) uninteresting as your breath going in and out of your body or repeating one word for 5 or 10 minutes, it will be more likley to accept sticking with a more interesting task when you present it with one.
God only knows where I read that. I would have guessed Yoga Journal, because I've been reading it for years, but a search of the magazine's website didn't turn up anything that looked familiar. But this article from Science Daily describes a study of meditation's impact on the brain. One researcher summed it up by saying, "Findings like these suggest that meditation's benefits may not require extensive training to be realized, and that meditation's first benefits may be associated with increasing the ability to sustain attention."
If we can sustain our attention during our work period, we can get more done. That's managing our time.
I do think I saw an improvement in my ability to stay on task during that period while I was meditating, and last week when I went back to work after a long break, I started meditating again. I get most of my meditation technique (if you want to call it that) from my taekwondo instructor, who has instructed us on meditation off and on for years, and from yoga instructors talking classes through savasana at the end of class. As Sussman says in her article, though, you can get meditation tips all over the Internet. One of the things I've been finding happening this last go-round is that when my mind wanders from the nothingness I'm shooting for, it's often wandering to something work related. I'm sure that someone really knowledgable about meditation would say that's not a good thing. But so long as I'm not dealing with random thoughts about my extended family or the house that's falling apart around me, I'm pleased.
Okay, all you who are trying to better manage your time, have you tried meditation? Any luck with it? Does it sound like something that would be worth giving a try?