Executive Coach Executive CoachExecutive Coach
Scott Eblin offers his take on lessons in the news and his advice on your pressing leadership questions.

3 Ways to Quiet Your Mental Chatter (aka Monkey Mind)

ARCHIVES
Sometimes, calming the "monkey mind" is easier said than done. Sometimes, calming the "monkey mind" is easier said than done. ziggysofi/Shutterstock.com

Has this happened to you lately? You’re in a conversation, or a meeting or working on an important project. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, you’re thinking about what you’re going to have for dinner or the email you forgot to respond to or the March Madness game you watched over the weekend or an errand you forgot to run or someone you need to call or that crazy episode of House of Cards you watched last night. The likelihood is you’re having a whole series of those thoughts, not just one. It sure happens to me; that list of random thoughts I just wrote comes straight from my current playlist.

In doing the research for my new book on mindfulness for overworked and overwhelmed leaders and professionals, I’ve learned that the average person has 70,000 thoughts a day. So, seriously, what’s the likelihood that all those thoughts are going to lay themselves out in an exquisite sequence of hyper focus? Not very likely.

We all have mental chatter. There’s even a Sanskrit word for it—vritti—that the ancient yogis came up with thousands of years ago to describe the whirlpool of thoughts that constantly swirl through your mind. Another great term for the condition we often find ourselves in is “monkey mind.”

Monkey mind, or mental chatter, is a fact of the human condition. The trick is to create conditions that make it less likely, recognize it when it’s happening and then change things up. Here are three ways to do that:

  1. Schedule Short Segments. As much as you can, schedule your work and conversations in short segments. Research shows that the average person can stay on task for somewhere between 45 to 90 minutes before their attention starts to diminish and their performance starts to degrade. Don’t set yourself up for monkey mind by expecting yourself to work beyond those natural limits without a break.
  2. Set Your Alarm. In a guided meditation session, the leader will often sound a gentle chime at random intervals throughout the 20- to 45-minute sit. One of the reasons for that is to help the meditators bring their minds back into the room because the likelihood is their minds are wandering. You can do something similar by setting your phone or another device to chime every so often during a scheduled work session.
  3. Create a Distraction Free Zone. If you’re working at your desk, shut down email and your web browser. This is huge for focus as research shows that people who are working while their email is open switch screens an average of 39 times an hour. That’s about once every 90 seconds. Talk about monkey mind! If you’re in conversation with someone face to face, turn away from your screen and remove your smartphone from your person. If you’re on a conference call, turn your computer off, put on a headset and walk around your office while talking and listening.

My guess is you have lots of other good ideas for quieting mental chatter. What are they? 

(Image via ziggysofi/Shutterstock.com)

Executive coach Scott Eblin’s goal is to help you succeed at the next level of leadership. Throughout the week, he’ll offer his take on the leadership lessons in the news and his advice on your most pressing leadership questions. A former government executive, Scott is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.