By Anne Krog Iversen
We’re all so busy on a daily basis working in this fast-moving software world. Being an IT professional is invigorating and exciting, but it can also be tiring.
To be at the top of our game, we need an understanding of many different technology aspects from project management to coding to engineering principles, and we haven’t even begun to discuss meetings, reports, or deadlines.
To excel in the software arena it’s important to take a step back and ask ourselves what happens to our brain and our mental resources when our attention is constantly hijacked by the next information fix.
Recovery for Better Performance
Our world is one based on speed, new technology developments, and information. We’re so used to going fast. But sometimes, it’s worthwhile to slow down and release.
According to an article in Huffington Post titled, Why Silence Is So Good for Your Brain, dated March 5, 2016, studies point out that noise pollution and digital distractions drain our attentional resources, which means we become mentally fatigued and may struggle to focus, make decisions, solve problems, and come up with new ideas.
How does information overload affect your decision making? In an April 2017 story in Bastian Overgaard, we learn that neuroscientists explained that brains can perform at less than optimal modes if exposed to information overload. In fact, MRI scans have shown how test subjects often make less qualified decisions after being exposed to and requested to interact with an abundance of information.
The good news is that the brain can restore its cognitive resources by prioritizing time with lower levels of sensory inputs than usually. Take for example a story in the Harvard Business Review titled, The Busier You Are, the More You Need Quiet Time, dated March 17, 2017, which shows that taking time for silence restores the nervous system, helps sustain energy, and conditions our mind to be more focused and adaptive to the complex environments in which so many of us now live, work, and lead.
For many years, we have incorporated these principles prior to speaking sessions, seminars, or regular company meetings. Just prior to commencing a meeting, we begin with a moment of silence. This helps all participants to land freely in the meeting that is about to begin. It allows all to separate themselves from pressures, thoughts, and stress from their prior engagement and to clear their mind and prepare for the new meeting. This is of course a key component of mindfulness—in the moment.
Even more, a moment of silence makes for an overall better group dynamic and enhances meeting productivity. Think about how often a meeting incorporates endless talking and information sharing. Have you ever thought about what being tired and mentally overloaded does to your participation, focus, and decision making in a formal meeting or a standup? Have you considered why you leave a meeting with even less energy and therefore less effectiveness for your software projects that you’re about to engage in for the remainder of your day?
Strategies to Reset
Although we have found great success with a company-wide moment of silence, not all companies are ready to take this step. So why not be proactive and do it alone? Prepare yourself prior to any of your meetings by establishing your own personal moment of silence.
To get started, focus on your breath, anchor yourself, and smile.
Develop your own favorite breathing technique to help calm your nervous system, relax your body, and clear your mind—leaving you more alert, agile, and at ease when your minute is over. Try breathing in to a count of four, hold your breath for a moment, and breath out to the count of eight.
Anchor yourself in the present moment when your mind wanders during the moment of silence. As you begin to take in your deep breaths, pay attention to your breath as it goes in and out. Slowly scan your body from head to toe, bringing your attention to each area of your body.
After your breathing is complete, finish your moment of silence by smiling. Connecting with your smile can have a huge impact, both with your mood and your success in the meeting.
Setting Up for Success
This principle of a personal moment of silence is simple yet highly effective. From someone who has implemented this strategy as a central component of business meetings, I can attest to its effectiveness—especially for busy software practitioners.
Starting a meeting with a moment of silence is a great way to become grounded, focus thoughts, help connect with your meeting colleagues, and improve your role in group dynamics. It’s not always easy reaching a calm state of mind during the day, and when we go from one deadline to the next, this technique helps you become more balanced. In other words, it’s not only the meeting success that you will find, but greater efficiency during your entire workday.
A moment of silence prior to any meeting—or anytime during the day—is truly a great time to invest in your mental wellbeing. By doing so, you will have a tool that you can use in your life to re-connect with the calm, innovative, and kind colleague you want to be. And in the end, you’ll be a more successful software practitioner and happier person outside of work. SW
Anne Krog Iversen is the co-founder/chief DNA & culture officer at TimeXtender, where she built, implemented, and manages corporate mindfulness throughout all of its global offices and has made it an integral part of the company’s DNA. She has played an instrumental role in growing TimeXtender across numerous geographic regions and attracting more than 2,600 customers worldwide.
Jul2018, Software Magazine