Can mindfulness help us become more organised?

I was asked this question a few years ago at the end of a mindfulness course I was facilitating. At the time I found myself needing to take a pause before attempting to answer as the answer did not seem straightforward. Helping people to become more organised is certainly not a direct intention when teaching a mindfulness course. However, if I consider my own experience, I am aware that I have definitely become more organised since developing a mindfulness practice. I cannot say for certain that this shift is causally linked but I believe that, to a large extent, it is. Trying to explain how this has happened is somewhat difficult…

For starters, mindfulness has noticeably enhanced my ability to focus on tasks for long periods. I used to become quite easily bored and be fairly easily distracted by things that seemed more interesting. It would be possible to argue that perhaps I am more often engaging in tasks that I’m more passionate about these days. But even with the more mundane tasks I need to do, my focus is better. One of my previous distractions would often be thinking: planning what more interesting things I would do next, remembering events from the past, questioning whether I was doing the task ‘right’, etc. These thoughts would slow down progress and ultimately make the task take longer, leaving less time for other tasks. In that way they would add to time pressures and the more time pressured I felt, the more stressed I became. Things could get forgotten or I would rush from one task to the next without really finishing them or doing them properly. By removing these issues to some extent through developing mindfulness, time management has become easier and I feel more organised as a result.

I think I probably also have greater clarity of thought now, which has been a gradual progression over time. The best way to do tasks somehow seems more obvious and I think I’m better at prioritising what’s most important and minimising time spent on less critical tasks. Perhaps this is due to mindfulness helping me to be able to direct my attention more fully towards the current task.

I have become more aware of how I spend my time as well; I notice quicker if I am doing something which is not particularly productive or good for my wellbeing and can then decide whether I wish to use my time on a different activity instead.

So, in indirect ways, I think it is possible to become more organised through starting and maintaining a regular mindfulness practice; however, I believe it does take time to notice a shift. And it is always best to let go of any aims for what you want to happen as a result of learning mindfulness and simply be with the process and see what arises. If we focus too much on what we want to achieve, we can set up a striving attitude which is the opposite of the mindful ‘being’ we wish to cultivate.

If you are interested in learning mindfulness, I facilitate an 8-week Mindfulness for Wellbeing Course in Exeter and also offer introductory taster sessions.

* I originally published a variation of this post in April 2015 on the Serenity Wellbeing blog I shared with a friend. It is all my own writing and I have slightly updated for this page.*

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