Well, the holidays are almost here. What started in October with innocent kids dressed up as super heroes and princesses knocking on my door for treats has evolved into a mad rush as we wrap up our good intentions along with our holiday gifts.
We send our clients, our families, and our friends well-meaning gifts that range from fruit baskets to cashmere sweaters. There are potluck lunches and holiday parties, with every invitation hard to resist. It’s practically impossible to say “No.”
From weight gain to stomach pain to overall lack of energy, nothing good comes from consistent overindulgence. We live in a never-ending cycle of the harried holiday season, striving to stay on top of it all. Finishing work projects in time to make it to the kids’ holiday show or buying gifts for your in-laws becomes a multitasking frenzy. And as we get little to nothing done, we are also more likely to make mistakes.
It’s Hard to Just Slow Down
Multitasking doesn’t work. Studies show we can actually be up to 40 percent LESS effective when trying to do more than one thing at a time. Though we feel like we are being super-productive, the tasks actually are slowing us down. Want proof?
Get two pieces of paper and a pen. Time yourself writing the alphabet A-to-Z on one paper and then the numbers 1-to-26 on the other. Repeat the process alternating the tasks, writing A, then 1, B then 2, C then 3, and so on, also on two different sheets of paper. Again, record the time it took to complete this task. You get the same results, an alphabet and a list of numbers, but notice how much longer the second task took to complete. Even if the difference is just a few seconds, over the course of a day, you are losing chunks of time to multitasking.
On top of that, we have the stress of our internal chatter. The countless to-do lists, the replay of that stressful conversation with your spouse, and the internal dialog of guilty candy-eating indulgence. Our minds are cluttered with so many thoughts, some valid, many nonsense, that keep us from being at peak performance. We feel overwhelmed, panicked, stressed, and exhausted.
How Do You Perform at Your Best?
There is a way to stop the cycle. Mindfulness. Humans have the ability to focus our minds, direct our thoughts, make better choices, slow our responses, and build stronger relationships. In business, mindfulness results in greater collaboration, innovation, and engagement. Personally, you feel in control and centered. Business leaders who are mindful are viewed as the calm space in the eye of the storm, able to handle crisis and be resilient.
During this end-of-year holiday season, it’s even more challenging to be mindful. Mindfulness takes work, but makes a world of difference, I promise. Simply start with a breath. Take a moment now to try it:
- Set a timer for two minutes. That’s only 120 seconds—you can do it.
- Dim the lights, if you can.
- Sit in a comfortable, open posture, with your hands resting lightly in your lap.
- Close your eyes or soften your gaze.
- Listen to the sounds around you.
- Focus only on your breathing.
- Inhale and exhale at your own comfortable pace.
- Pay attention to the air as it comes in through your nose or mouth, fills your body, and then leaves.
- Let your thoughts float by like currents in a stream.
- At the end of the two minutes, open your eyes slowly.
Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference
How do you feel? It’s a simple ritual, yet it alters your ability to be mindful, centered, and focused. Though I can’t guarantee it’ll help you avoid those delicious Snickerdoodles your coworker just left by the coffee machine, I can assure you that this crazy holiday season will feel much more manageable with a little mindfulness.
Wishing you happy holidays and all the best for a productive, successful, mindful 2019.
Jodie Stewart is a consultant at Exec|Comm, a global communication skills consultancy. Stewart joined Exec|Comm in 2013 with more than 20 years of experience in Learning & Professional Development. Her extensive background in training and client relations in technology and health care give her the capacity to understand business from many perspectives. She brings real-world experience, and a strong understanding of competitive business markets to her clients and the classroom. For more information, visit http://www.exec-comm.com.