One of the most powerful lessons I have learned in my training with the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (www.ipeccoaching.com) and the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute (www.jjhpi.com) is the importance of being intentional in what you're doing.
"How can we perform tasks unintentionally?", you ask.
Well it's easier than it sounds. Anyone who has driven to work for the thousandth time and, on arrival at the office can't recall any of the details of the drive, has experienced it. In this particular case I could argue that it's not just a situation in which you're not getting the most value from the activity but it's also pretty dangerous! The difference between being intentional and unintentional can actually be a fairly subtle nuance.
Let me give you four everyday scenarios in which I know you can all find more value by being fully intentional.
1. The commute
For most of us the commute is a low level normal stressor that we have adapted to over many years. We see it as something to get done so that the rest of our day can begin. We may have developed some distraction tactics - reading on the train, listening to music, making calls from the car. These are fine but we're not getting the full value. Simply reframing the commute from something to be suffered and endured to something that provides time for you to continue to learn (reading that book), experience some new cultural content (listening to that music) or generate positive energy from a human connection (making that call) will make a massive difference.
2. Short pockets of downtime in your daily schedule
Every once in a while you find some time open up in your calendar. This is a gift! More often than not we burn that available time either by jumping straight into the next task, sitting at our desks ruminating on nothing in particular or wandering to the kitchen to grab a coffee.
Again, all of these responses are perfectly sensible but, if you simply elevate your consciousness to a level in which you acknowledge that the break offers you a chance to find some incremental value in your day, then you'll enjoy the full benefit. So reframe that choice to plough into the next task as "I'm in the zone making great decisions so let's stay focused on bringing that mindset to my next challenge"; reframe that simple act of daydreaming for a few minutes to "I'm going to put the brain in neutral for a moment to find some mental recovery before I move on to the next thing"; reframe that walk to the kitchen to grab coffee to "I know that simply standing up and moving reduces my blood pressure, boosts my immune system and strengthens my cardiovascular system." Powerful stuff.
3. Checking social media
Checking social media is a way of life but there is definitely a good and a bad way of doing it. The most important difference is being intentional. So, simply saying to yourself that you're going to use the next five minutes to edit and upload that awesome picture to your Insta feed is an intentional and thoughtful way to manage it.
Alternatively, falling into the trap of saying that you're just going to have a quick look at YouTube only to find yourself disappearing into the vortex of mindless video watching on topics you have no real interest for 20 minutes before being rescued by someone tapping you on your shoulder, is what we need to avoid. There's no positive intention there.
4. Hitting the gym
All the science shows that the minute you find yourself checking your emails whilst jogging on the treadmill you lose a significant amount of the value you set out to achieve.
Not that you would be taking fewer strides in the same time period, but by not bringing your full focus to your exercise you won't realize the full emotional, mental and spiritual value beyond the physical impact. In fact, the research also shows that you can achieve more benefit, in a shorter time, by being super intentional about your workout. So if you think you're saving time by running and working simultaneously then you're wrong. Neither your workout nor your email will get your full attention and you'll end up needing to top up both after the fact. However, if you buy yourself time by working out harder with more focus for ten minutes less, and then use that extra ten minutes to fully focus on replying to emails you're winning on both sides.
So, in summary, I'm not suggesting radical change to your everyday routine. I'm simply suggesting that, by raising your consciousness to be fully intentional in what you're doing, you will see significant incremental value from your efforts.
Let me know how you get on!