Tame the Chaos Through Mindful Meditation

Hurry! The due date for the next assignment for the Hadoop course is quickly approaching — time to get started! No, no! Focus on registering for the MEAN course that you want to take. Forget about all of that other stuff and make sure you carve out time for the gym today! Hey! Have you narrowed down a list of local tech meetups you’d like to join yet?? Psst! You need to work on drafting a blog post this evening . . . and while you’re at it, go through your email to get your inbox down to zero.

Pretty chaotic, right? That's the sound of the various priorities in my life playing tug-of-war with my brain's attention.

I've recently set many new priorities in my life. Among them are build a personal website, develop a personal blog (which you're now reading), invest more in my financial future, plan vacation, learn big data and the MEAN software development stack. (In case you can't tell by now, I'm a software engineer.)

Keeping track of all items that need to get done is a challenge, but it's manageable with task management tools (my personal favorite at the moment is Todoist).

The easy — I should say easier — chore is identifying what needs to get done. The harder part is actually getting it done efficiently.

Your Focus Needs More Focus

For years, my wife complained about the fact that there are times — more than I care to admit — where I'm not present; I'm physically present, but my attention is elsewhere. Admittedly, I blew off her comments, but if I'm honest, she's right. (I'm learning everyday that my wife deserves much more credit for being wise than I give her.)

The biggest obstacle to remaining "present" and getting things done is staying focused and dedicating energy to one task at a time. I find that while working on one task, my mind often wanders off to some other unrelated endeavor; while listening to a video lecture on Hadoop, my mind screams about the fact that I need to be working on a blog post.

In order to help with the staying on task, I incorporated an app into my daily workflow called focus booster, based on the pomodoro technique. From Wikipedia:

The pomodoro technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks.

While the pomodoro technique is great for ensuring that I sit down to focus on one task for stretches of 25 minutes, it does not guarantee that my mind won't wander to other things over the course of that time.

Mindfulness Meditation

I've begun exploring mindfulness meditation as a means to sharpen my focus. I carve out 10 minutes of each day and give myself completely over to meditation.

I downloaded the Headspace app for my smartphone to facilitate my meditation sessions. Headspace provides 10-minute audio sessions that guide you through mindfulness routines, and I must say that it's been well worth the minor time investment thus far.

Previously, my day-to-day routine was a frantic race to the finish line. From the time that my alarm clock sounded in the morning to the time that I fell asleep at night, my mind was working overtime with zero downtime.

Mindfulness meditation allows me to carve out time to deal with my headspace (pun intended). It feels good to be aware, mindful, and present in the moment while doing absolutely nothing but giving my mind permission to relax.

Meditation is teaching me that it's okay — and completely normal — for my mind to wander, but it's also teaching me to be sensitive to when my mind wanders and to redirect focus back to the task at hand, the present.