Getting things done is better for mindfulness than Meditation

Mindfulness is being present. At wherever you are and while doing whatever you do. It’s been recommended for thousands of years as a solution to the problem of “how to find happiness?”

Instead of worrying or regretting about the past, or being anxious about the future, or day-dreaming about some a fantasy, if you give 100% of your valuable attention to the task at hand, you can derive a lot of happiness, contentment and satisfaction.

The trend now is to practice the ancient art of meditation to practice mindfulness.
The practice is simply this: You sit daily for a few minutes and just watch your thoughts as they come and go. Most of the times, you’ll get carried away by your thoughts. Sometimes you’ll notice that you’ve been carried away by your thoughts. “Oh no. I was supposed to notice my thoughts. But I ended up flowing with them! Let me get back to noticing them.”
The idea is, if you do these little practice sesions daily, very soon, this will become a habit outside of your practice sessions too. While living your normal life, you might suddenly notice “Oh no. I was supposed to focus on playing with my kid. Instead I’m mindlessly surfing facebook”. Thereby increasing your change of being present during your day-to-day moments.

I’ve been reading about and practicing meditation a lot since the past 2 years. But to be honest, it didn’t work for me. But to be really honest, I didn’t practice it enough. After the guided-sessions are over (in the Waking Up app), I lost interest and gave it up. I’d think of all the things I could be doing instead of just sitting idle 20 or 30 minutes a day. And the carryover to the rest of the life wasn’t happening to me as often as I’d like.

Recently though, I found something that’s helped me with being mindful. And it’s this: Using a project management software.

Yes. It’s JIRA, that changed my life. I’m using it personally too. I’m creating epics, raising tickets for myself and then commenting and closing them on time. It has saved my life.

Wait. Just kidding. It’s not JIRA. But it’s a task management software called Todoist.

It’s an app where you note down your to-do items. You can schedule them by date/time. You can create recurring tasks, group related-tasks into projects, divide big projects into sections of tasks and add labels to easily tag tasks. It’s very simple once you get used to it.
As soon as a task comes into your life (via email, via memory, via wife, kids, office boss, govt etc), you just note it down in the app with minimum details (due date/time, details, priority, project etc) and forget it. It’s now the app’s duty to remind you about the task just when you need it (maybe on the day or few days before, maybe by email or push-notification etc)

Apart from having to remember to add the tasks to the app, you also have to develop the habit of triaging it weekly once and waking up to it daily once. And then look how easily your brain remembers the tasks at exactly the time it needs to do it, and then watch as you check-off one item after the another as and when you finish off a task. It’s a healthy addiction - to check off a todo list-item.

How does this help with mindfulness? With each task, you can add “contexts”. Either location based cues like “remind this task when I’m in madurai next time”, or time based cues “remind this task every month end”, or even things like “when I’m online before a laptop”, “when I’m on-road”, “when I’m shopping” etc.. You do that in todoist by adding “tags” to your task.
And then you can filter tasks with specific filters. So, when I go to madurai next time, I click on that tag and all tasks that can only be done in Madurai will pop up. (I added those as and when things occurred in my memory).

This is the very definition of mindfulness isn’t it? You know exactly where you are and what you have to do there and you have all the information and desire to do that exact thing right then and there. You do it with joy because you get to check-off a todo item as “DONE”.

So, go ahead and install Todoist. To make task addition as easy as possible, they’ve created their app in almost all platforms. Mobile app, browser site, desktop apps, browser extensions, api, emails etc. Their mobile app has a homescreen widget that shows “Today’s tasks”. I have it as my homescreen and there’s no better way to be on top of your priorities.

PS: The todoist link is an affiliate link. If you use it to get premium, I get 2 months premium free, at no extra cost to you.

Thoughts on the post are welcome! Mail me at prasanna@npras.in or .