“The untrained mind wanders between past, present and future and is unable to find clarity” ~ Susan Skjei ~
Mindful planning requires that we slow down so that we can experience the present moment as the ground for planning. This requires an investment of time, attention and practice. In order to break the addictive, speed induced, reactive approaching to planning, we need to make some space for it. Although planning involves understanding the past and the future, it takes place in the present moment. The untrained mind wanders between past, present and future and is unable to find clarity. The first step in planning is to come back to nowness. When we are reacting to pressures, either real or perceived, we can’t think clearly or rationally. The urge to react blinds us to the bigger picture, even though reacting in the moment may give us a temporary feeling of satisfaction.
When we take time to plan our day we gain a feeling of control and clarity that sets the tone for the day. Here are a few tips for mindful planning inspired by Rasmus Hougaard (2016) from his book One Second Ahead: Enhance Your Performance at Work with Mindfulness.
- Follow your breath for a few minutes to come into the present situation and cut speed
- Make a short list of the highest priority items for this day
- Plan your calendar for the day according to these items
- Now go to work and review your plan to track progress
Although you are putting on the breaks and relinquishing the immediate satisfaction of “reacting” you are setting yourself up for success. You will actually gain time because you won’t be procrastinating or sidetracked by interesting but non-essential tasks.
Rasmus also reminds us that scheduling is another important element in planning. Remember that 20% of the items on your list will deliver 80% of the gains. Focus on those tasks and reserve more time for them while allowing some time for any emergencies that might arise. Also be sure to build in breaks for physical and mental relaxation so that you are refreshed for the next thing that needs to be done. When we give up reactive planning and instead bring in a mindful approach, we can move into the future with more ease and self-awareness.
Over the last 25 years Susan has worked with thousands of leaders in the US, Canada and Europe to cultivate mindfulness and authenticity, strengthen relational skills, and effectively lead the changes they want to see in their organizations and in the world. Formerly a Vice President and Chief Learning Officer and an international consultant, Susan is currently the director of the Authentic Leadership Center at Naropa University which trains and empowers current and next generation leaders to act as catalysts for positive organizational and social change.Susan Skjei PH.D.
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