Tuesday 7 January 2020 4:41 am

Why meditation is the secret to being more productive in 2020

Will Williams is a wellbeing adviser and the founding teacher at Beeja Meditation in London.

Everyone wants to be more productive. In fact, so eager have we become to get the most juice out of our work that we’ve spawned an entire productivity industry, filled by people promising to maximise our efficiency and get us more bang for our buck. 

But what we often find is that after only a brief period of higher-than-usual productivity, we fall back into old habits — or worse, find ourselves more stressed and anxious than ever.

One of the problems with the usual pursuit of productivity is that regimes of extreme organisation or meticulous time management create tension and encourage a controlling mindset that leaves no room for anything else. 

And in all discussions of productivity, it’s important to think about what we really mean. Productivity isn’t just about work, even if that’s the association which we usually make. It’s about getting the most out of our lives.

There is one small change that anyone can make that will send their productivity sky-high in the workplace and elsewhere — without a corresponding rise in stress. And that’s meditation — the simplest, most effective, and cheapest way of getting more value out of the effort that you put into your life. 

Far from inducing a blissed-out, anaesthetised state, meditation sharpens your mind, boosts your creativity, and moves you into a higher gear, while reducing the risk of burnout in a way that your coffee habit won’t.

The ways in which meditation increases productivity are diverse. It isn’t just about being calmer or having more energy. Vedic meditation — the kind of meditation that I teach — has a powerful pacifying effect on the entire nervous system, one of the first effects of which is vastly improved sleep. We all know that a good night’s sleep can, by itself, be the key to a much more productive day than usual.

But there’s more. If you practise before work, for example (and you can practise meditation on your commute or in almost any context) you are effectively charging up your prefrontal cortex with adaptation energy. This is the energy you have to respond to new events as they occur throughout the day. The accumulation of events like these can leave you feeling run-down, but meditation gives you the composure and resistance to stress needed to stay productive — even when everything around you seems to be falling to pieces.

This is particularly useful to those working in dynamic and high-pressure industries. The corporate world is a hotbed of change, and the ability to remain calm and adaptable is not just desirable, but necessary. 

What meditation gives to workers in the corporate world is this kind of calm responsiveness to change, which stops firms from sliding into the kind of fearfulness and rigidity that can set in when change happens too quickly and workers are caught off-guard. 

Anyone who meditates will notice an increase in their ability to absorb information, prioritise, and make good decisions quickly. There’s a corresponding increase in empathy and compassion — vital traits for any team player or manager. 

Arguably, the most powerful cognitive effect of all is on your creative functions, which benefits those in creative roles but also anyone who has to problem-solve. To those who worry that by meditating they will lose their “edge”, I say this: you’ll only become more creative, not less. The only thing you’ll lose is your edginess — the stress that stops you from thinking clearly.

Simply put, meditation allows you to “do life” better. It doesn’t end or even have to start with work. Its effects colour your social and family life  as well. It helps you to be successful at 100 per cent of life, not 50. 

There are some who think of meditation as “hippie-ish”, and others who say that they “don’t have time to meditate” — which is a bit like saying you’re “too hungry to eat”. 

But they are only depriving themselves of a very simple, efficient way of becoming an altogether more effective human being. And that should appeal to everyone.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.