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Mindful Work Effectiveness Secrets (From an Ex-Monk)

Dear Integral Meditators,

Coming to the world of business from being a monk was not easy for me. The article below explains a bit about how I started to use what I had learned as a monk to become effective in my daily work as a business person running my own company.

Yours in the spirit of the timelessly time-effective,


Mindful Work Effectiveness Secrets (From an Ex-Monk)

How can you get a lot done at your work without getting over-stressed or exhausted? And how can you do this not just in the short term, but over a long period of time?
When I left my life as a Buddhist monk and went into my own business I actually found it very difficult to pace myself well. There were so many things that I had to do, that I had to learn, it all felt a bit overwhelming. I found myself going through periods of intensive working, then burning out, then getting emotionally discouraged and then procrastinating/wasting time that I could be spending productively. I’m sure you have an idea of what I mean, it is a very human experience!

Make like a Buddhist monk  – Split your day into six sessions
I found a really helpful solution to my challenge by looking at the way in which I used to structure my day as a Buddhist monk. As a monk  my waking hours would be split into 6 parts, two in the morning, two in the afternoon and two in the evening/ at night. During each session we would begin with a prayer and a few minutes of mindfulness, and then return to our allotted tasks. Using this basic template I applied it to my working day, but in a slightly different way.
My day is still divided into six parts, but each section is only one hour long. In that one hour I spend 45minutes focusing really intensively on one work task; emails, accounts, writing articles, marketing etc… At the end of 45 minutes I then spend the remaining 15minutes relaxing; doing some stretching, getting a coffee, doing a few minutes mindfulness, generally re-finding my centre and balance.

Achieve something in each session
In each session I come out having really worked in an intensive way, and feeling like I have achieved something. Because of the focus I bring to it, the work itself feels like a meditation practice, with the object of mindfulness being the work itself. It also helps me deal with stress because in that period I am not thinking about my life or work as a whole, but just the process of achieving that task.
There is a saying in the texts that I used to study as a monk ‘small drops of water in a pot will eventually make it full’. Each of my 45 minute sessions is spent just focusing on the ‘pot’ of my business, putting in drops one after the other gradually making it full.

Each session does not have to be about work
During the 15 minutes at the end of each session, I get back in touch with how I am feeling. If I sense that my body-mind is getting close to exhaustion, I make a point of taking one of my sessions off, that is to say 45 minutes of deliberate relaxation, meditation, soializing or sleep. There is also plenty of time around each of the sessions to do other things
Sometimes of course the pattern breaks down, I go out for an evening with friends, I spend the morning with my daughter at the swimming pool, I have a meeting that goes overtime. But as soon as I return to my routine I am always thinking about my day in terms of these six periods, and how to use that structure to do some focused, productive work.

So now you know how an ex-monk structures his time using a mindful, process-focused approach that he find helps him achieve more. You might like to try it out, or a variation of it that will work for you!

Related Article: From Distraction to Intuitive Imagination (Meditation secrets for running a business)

Check out the Mindful Goals Coaching with Toby

© Toby Ouvry 2015, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

 Integral Meditation Asia


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Mindfulness: The Co-Creation of Happiness and Performance

Dear Integral Meditators,

This is an article that I prepared with some corporate clients in mind, it is another answer to the ever young question “what is mindfulness?”. Also, the practical exercise at the end is short but can have HUGE results.

Yours in the spirit of mindful flow,



Mindfulness: The Co-Creation of Happiness and Performance

Mindfulness is the art and practice of bringing more conscious awareness to your activities, relationships, thoughts, emotions, desires and motivations. It functions primarily (though not only) as a method of strengthening the conscious mind and its attendant natural intelligence.
In each moment we are making choices about how much conscious attention and awareness we bring to our activities; mindfulness guides us to bring a high level of consciousness to the activities in our life where it is most important to be fully awake and engaged both personally and professionally.

Mindfulness functions to bring two main effects to our life:

  • We become happier
  • We become more effective at our chosen tasks

More than this, mindfulness helps create a win-win relationship between these two; the happier we become the more effective we tend to be at work and at home, and the more effective we are the happier we tend to be both in our professionally and in our personal life.

Up to this point in time the majority of people practising mindfulness have been doing so because they have come to understand the benefits of mindfulness to their own personal wellbeing and health. More recently organizations are coming to understand that mindfulness offers one of the best ways to improve employee engagement at work and to improve productivity. But why should this be so? Let’s take a closer look using three examples:

Personal happiness and effectiveness at work
Positively disposed people are more likely to find ways of being happy in their work (rather than looking to find work that makes them happy, which is a crucially different thing), when you feel happy your mind is relaxed, you feel good and so it is actually enjoyable to put effort in to your tasks at work. Enjoyment and effort combine to produce greater effectiveness and engagement at work. Greater effectiveness and engagement in tasks as we all know have a feel-good factor, and so our greater productivity gives rise to more personal happiness in a mutually complementary dance.

The way you feel about yourself directly influences how you manage change
Mindfulness is a way of leaning to bring a conscious appreciation of yourself and what you bring to the world; it helps to create what psychologists call a good self-image or self-concept. People who have solid, secure and positive self concepts are less threatened by external change and thus when change happens in the workplace they tend to have the capacity to respond to it rationally, consciously and intelligently. The capacity to manage change well in turn further re-enforces a positive self-image and concept, so again here we see a mutually re-enforcing relationship between the a strong self-concept and the capacity to manage change, both facilitated by mindfulness.

Confidence and personal responsibility increases both creativity and problem solving capacity
Mindfulness is a space where we can learn to consciously cultivate confidence in ourself and learn to take responsibility for the important things in our life. As we all know, confidence and the capacity to take responsibility are essential qualities that we need to bring to the table to creatively solve problems and put forward new ideas in our professional life.
Conversely, whenever we solve a challenge or come up with a new idea at work both our confidence and our tendency to take responsibility for tasks and problems. So again we see a mutually re-enforcing pattern where mindfulness improves our personal qualities and wellbeing which in turn strengthen and enhance our engagement at work and in life.

It turns out that the best way to improve professional engagement is to work on a person’s personal growth and wellbeing; whether a CEO or a cashier, a happy and centred person is always a more effective professional.

Two questions to begin working with your own mindfulness practice

So what does a mindfulness practice actually look like? Actually there are a variety of mindfulness practices that you can engage in. Here is a two minute one:
Or the first minute focus your conscious attention upon the question “What is good in my life right now”. For that time simply focus upon mentally noting the good and the positive in your life.
For the second minute focus upon one particular situation in your life and ask the question “What is the most important aspect of this situation that I need to pay attention too?” For the duration of that minute see what answer this question takes your mind to.
If you find it helpful you can write down your principal answers to both questions.

Two minutes of mindfulness practice right there. Try it for a week, see where it takes you.

© Toby Ouvry 2014, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website