In modern society, we have become so accustomed to a frenetic pace and the gravitational pull of noise that we rarely consider what it means to be silent. Noise allows us to temporarily ignore our inner dysfunctions, because it’s often too distressing to face our own struggles. Yet, our outer world mirrors our inner conflicts.
Noise and constant activity separate us from the essence of who we are by leaving us in a fast, furious and futile attempt to manipulate ourselves around our psychological, emotional and physical discomforts to escape our painful realities. Despite our efforts, there will always be situations to come along that we cannot wish away, cure or escape.
When we cease to wrestle with our circumstances and their outcomes and let go of our agenda, its through calming stillness that our breakthroughs will often emerge. Control produces known patterns and results; but silence invites us to face our unpleasant experiences and feelings, and makes room for the unknown and unexpected.
Silence challenges the purely intellectual thinking of our times with a deeper truth emanating from within. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonious’ immortal advice to his son Laertes is, “This above all: to thine own self be true… [and] thou canst not then be false to any man.” Our life’s answers do no lie in the external environment, they lie within us — the last place we often consider searching. Self-understanding increases our ability to have a more fulfilling and productive relationship with ourselves and others. Silence heightens self-awareness of our own attitudes, emotions, behaviors and intentions and is a key ingredient for personal transformation and our capacity to be of service to others.
The Encounter with Silence
To tap into the power of silence, we must move beyond the noise of words and chaotic experiences to reconnect with our inner voice. While learning to be comfortable with silence takes practice, here are some ways to begin the cultivation process:
1. Take a walk alone, so you can naturally listen. Consider a quiet neighborhood, park or nature trail where you can listen to your thoughts, interact with them, and pay attention to the feelings that emerge. There’s no need to draw conclusions, just be present with your thoughts and emotions.
2. Make room for self-exploration. Use the practice of silence to increase self-awareness, gain clarity about purpose and assess progress towards your goals. For example, you might ask, Who am I? What am I here to do? How are my activities aligned with my purpose? What areas of my life are calling (or screaming) for attention?
3. Pose a provocative question, then stop talking. The next time you’re having a conversation with a boss, peer, direct report, or client, ask them, “If success was guaranteed, what bold steps would you take to make a dramatic improvement in company productivity (or sales, marketing, staffing, operations, morale, etc.)?” Then despite any overwhelming urge to interject your own thoughts or ideas, wait in silence for a response. You’ll learn a lot more about others’ perspectives regarding organizational issues, challenges and potential solutions.
4. Quietly reflect on your experiences. After a meeting where something important was mentioned, discussed or decided, or after a stressful experience, a period of silence can help you to become clear about your interpretations, feelings, conclusions and next steps.
Regularly planned periods of silence allow us to become quietly reflective, blocking out the distractions of our mental chatter and the busyness of the world around us. A period of silence can occur at any point during the day. Morning silence allows us to focus and picture ourselves moving through the day on purpose. Evening silence allows us to reflect on the day’s experiences and how we can use them for personal growth and change. A silent interlude can last anywhere from 10 minutes to a week-long retreat. The length of time is not as important as how intentional we are about making the time.
Silence speaks more profoundly than all the collective words in the universe. Tap into your inner realm of silence to call forth your highest truth, ignite your deepest passion and achieve your greatest potential!
Until Next Time,
Technological advances have limited our attention span to the point where we believe we must achieve as much as possible in less time, or we’re doomed for failure. But don’t be deceived, multitasking is a myth that creates a false sense of accomplishment as we rush from project to project, without doing any one thing well.
Continuously dividing your attention between multiple tasks causes you to lose focus, minimizing any deep fulfillment that you ever hope to experience. To be truly effective, you must emphasize quality over quantity, so here are nine ways to boost productivity by taking a more intentional approach to goal achievement:
1. Be clear about your priorities. Know exactly what you need to get done and by when, and schedule your time accordingly.
2. Scrap the To-Do List. It’s nothing more than an annoying reminder of how much you haven’t gotten done. Add tasks as an appointment on your calendar and dedicate that time for getting them done.
3. Delegate responsibly. Delegation frees up time for more opportunities; but simply off-loading tasks that you don’t want to do can come back to bite you. Before delegating, quickly decide if it makes sense. If so, determine to whom you should delegate the task by considering individual skills, abilities and workload.
4. Focus on the moment. Eliminate distractions and focus your attention and energy on the task at hand. Urgent tasks will arise from time to time, so it’s important to recognize the difference between what’s urgent and what appears to be urgent.
5. Handle correspondence once. Whenever correspondence comes across your desk, handle it only once. If the message requires more thought or action add it to your calendar. If it’s FYI, print it or store it in an electronic reference file. If it’s junk mail, trash it.
6. Minimize interruptions. Interruptions break concentration, and it takes about 10-15 minutes to regain focus. Cut idle chatter short and schedule a mutual time to connect with colleagues. Turn off e-mail notification and schedule periodic e-mail checks. Instead of answering every phone call, allow callers to leave a message and set aside a specific time to return calls.
7. Build in time for creativity. Rather than reacting to everything that comes your way, carve out time each week to focus on creativity so that you can make more valuable contributions to your organization.
8. Know your body. Know when your energy level is highest by monitoring your productivity. Use this time to tackle your most important tasks first.
9. Take time for self-renewal. Keeping your nose to the grindstone leads to burnout, resentment and physical ailments. Take small breaks between tasks to re-energize and re-focus. Dedicate time each week to self-renewal by doing something that brings you joy.
Losing a few minutes here and there may seem insignificant, but when translating those minutes into hours, multitasking has far-reaching consequences. The next time you find yourself getting sucked into this productivity-busting phenomenon, consider the overall costs to yourself, your staff and your organization.
Until Next Time,