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Harnessing your monkey mind to turbocharge your productivity

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The monkey mind refers to a Buddhist concept describing the constant flitting of thoughts from ‘idea to idea’ and the distractions influencing the undisciplined mind.

There are numerous books, articles and experts these days talking about the monkey mind – how you can calm it, eliminate it or control it.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]“The human mind is like a drunken monkey… that’s been stung by a bee…” – Founder of Bikram Yoga[/quote]

Many of us are under the misconception that we need to rigidly rein in our thoughts in order to sit down and be calm, productive and focused. The truth of the matter is that in order to truly accept your mind and body, in order to work effectively, you need to work with your mind and not against it. When you’re constantly fighting yourself, trying to rein in your mind and force it to focus on something its not interested in, you’re creating a circular struggle that just feeds upon itself until you’re frustrated and demoralized (unless you’re a yogi or a monk who does this for a living ).

For the rest of us mortals, it is time to realize that in some situations, the monkey mind is not something to be stopped, chained or forced. It is something you can harness and work with in order to multiply your productivity and creativity in order to come up with your most craziest, wildest and perhaps most successful ideas ever.

Consider this scenario –  you’re sitting at your desk, bored our of your mind trying to write that 12000 word report that’s due next week. Of course, you’re going to try and procrastinate until the very last minute, then at the very last moment when you’re stressed, you sit down in a frenzy and try to write the article in 2 hours instead of twenty. Then, surprised by how easy those ideas came to you, you tell everyone about how you are more productive under pressure.

Actually, you were just tapping into the power of the monkey mind. The monkey mind jumps fast, brainstorms effectively and bounces from idea to idea like fireworks. In this state of jitters that all kinds of new, shiny, crazy and even irrational ideas come to you. Part of the process of working effectively is to catch this monkey mind and ride its wave so that when you’re done, you’ve made a huge dent in your brainstorming work.

Once your monkey mind blurts everything out on to the page – that’s just your starting point. From there, you have something substantial to work with. Think of yourself as a sculptor. First, you start out with a rough lump or ball of clay. With every pass you elongate, shape and define the lump of clay until you’re satisfied that it resembles a human figure, a portrait, a landscape, a pot. It may or may not be an exact replica of the image you held in your mind, but that is not the point. The point is that everything just did not just happen on the first go, did it?

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The next time your mind is flitting form place to place while you’re working, just put your serious task aside and go on a flight of fancy.

1. Sit down with a blank sheet of paper in front of you.
2. Use a pen, pencil, or if you like, go all out and use colours, crayons, oil pastels, anything that you feel like to create whatever comes to mind for you.
3. If you want to doodle, doodle. If you feel like sketching or drawing cartoons, give in. If you want to draw hearts all over and write in-between, do that instead. Indulge in whatever journey your monkey mind takes you along. Maybe you will get new interesting ideas about the problem or situation you’re dealing with, maybe these ideas will be completely irrelevant. Don’t try to drive the action. Just see where your mind leads you.
4. Keep up the creative pursuits until the bored and restless feeling passes. When you’re done, assess what you’ve done. Note your thoughts to see if you’re in a better mental space to go back to the task you’re trying to finish. You may be surprised at how quickly you calm down and focus once you give in to your creative and disorganized urges.You may find that you start to settle down into a rhythm. Chances are, once you settle down into this new rhythm, the work you were initially setting out to accomplish will come to you in a calm and inviting manner.

The point of this exercise is for you to work with, not against your monkey mind. The mind can be your strongest ally or your most formidable enemy. The key to living mindfully and working productively is not to fight your mind into submission, but to work with the energy of your mind in order to create something worthwhile. Think of your monkey mind as an adventurous friend that edges you towards dangerous and successful new ideas. You just need to latch on to it and go for the ride that it offers you.   [/message_box]