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Practice Mindfulness Like Sherlock Holmes

5 February 2013

Allison read The Power of Concentration from the 15 December 2012 issue of The New York Times and appreciated Maria Konnokova’s summary of the many benefits of mindfulness including a better way to get stuff done like Sherlock Holmes. (By starting with just six minutes of mindfulness, Allison got this week's blog post written faster than usual, too.)

Tags: allison read, balance, happiness, leadership, mindfulness

I read about mindfulness a lot and do my best to practice a bit of it almost every day. I teach my clients that breathing deeply, thinking calm thoughts (or better yet, no thoughts at all) can actually help them lead more effectively. I’m completely sold on the benefits of mindfulness and yet, when the going gets tough, I often forget to practice what I preach. I find myself unable to focus on an important, urgent task or jumping from one anxious thought to another. (How will I get all this work done? Why can’t I get the one thing I want in my life? Why do I want to crawl back under the covers?)

I know that taking a few minutes to be mindful can be very helpful when I’m in this state, but like many people I either can’t remember to do it or find myself thinking, “Who has the time?” at the exact moment I need mindfulness most.

If you’re wondering what mindfulness is all about, Maria Konnokova does a great job of explaining the concept and summarizing many of the benefits in her article, The Power of Concentration. And if you’re looking for proof that mindfulness actually works, I think you’ll appreciate several of the compelling studies Konnokova includes about:

  • engaging with people meaningfully,
  • eliminating ineffective multitasking habits,
  • feeling happier,
  • paying better attention,
  • focusing for longer periods of time, and
  • possibly warding off Alzheimer’s and other challenges of the aging brain.

Finally, I like how she looks at mindfulness through the lens of Sherlock Holmes’ capacity to sit quietly and solve tricky mysteries without ever leaving his office. (I’m sure I could benefit from his powers of concentration to solve some of the mysteries in my life.)


As I jumped from task to task this morning struggling to find the focus I always need to write my Tuesday blog post, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it took me two hours to walk away from my computer, sit on my office couch and set my timer for six minutes of my favorite mindfulness techniques. (I wrote about several of them in my 17 July 2012 blog post, Mindfulness and Meditation Made Manageable.)

Guess what? After just six minutes of relaxing, I was able to get this post written much faster and with less temptation to multitask than most Tuesdays. Hmmm… maybe this stuff actually works! I sure hope I can remember to start with six minutes of mindfulness next week instead of two hours of agonizing and distracted multitasking. (I think I’ll put a reminder in my calendar just to be safe.)


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