With the demands and potential stress that can come with being CIO or CTO, many tech executives are taking steps to strengthen their mental fitness and reduce their stress levels. One example is mindfulness.
Mindfulness has been around for many years, often in the form of meditation. For those artful tech executives who embark on the mindful journey, the rewards are generally plentiful: better health, stronger focus, more energy, and greater peace of mind. Better yet, these outcomes can translate to heightened performance on the job for CIOs and CTOs.
I use mindfulness as a method to regain energy, stay focused, and release stress and tension. Like most C-level tech executives, I need to manage multiple activities in my job and practicing mindfulness helps me stay in mental shape – just like exercising helps the athlete stay fit. As a tech executive, your most valuable asset is your brain, and mindfulness helps you get the best out of it.
Before you object, let me address the biggest concern I hear from other CIOs and CTOs: Time.
Time and managing my busy schedule is without a doubt an issue, but since the practice helps me focus and make better decisions, I have made it a priority to find the time. I have experienced how mindfulness meditation can really help me maintain focus throughout the workday, and therefore it’s become a daily priority. Moreover, with clearer thinking and greater energy, I end up saving time and performing at a higher level simply from a small time investment made in mindfulness.
To be honest, I was very skeptical in the beginning. The first time I was introduced to using a minute of silence to start a meeting, I walked out and suggested that we call in meetings one minute earlier for those who had time for that.
Today, I’m happy that my colleagues were persistent and ignored my suggestion: Having a minute of silence prior to a new meeting has really helped me get the most out of discussions.
[ Are you taking care of yourself? Read our related story, 8 self-care tips for CIOs. ]
With the understanding that mindfulness can pay great dividends for us and that it should be scheduled into our busy lives, the next step is designing a plan to do so. Here are three easy, yet impactful, steps to help any CIO or CTO get started.
One Minute of Silence
Starting a meeting with an actual one minute of silence by all attendees is a great way to land, focus your thoughts, and connect to each other and the task at hand. It's not always easy reaching a calm state of mind when you’ve just come from a high-stakes meeting, so taking a minute to relax, calm down, and find your breath is the perfect method to prepare you for the impending meeting. CIOs can recommend this practice for all of the meeting participants or do it solo prior to entering the meeting room.
To fight off the fatigue from a hectic day, CIOs/CTOs should have techniques in place to refresh and anchor in the present moment when their minds begin to slow down or wander. For this, you can start by taking a few deep breaths and paying attention to your breath as it goes in and out. Slowly scan your body from head to toe bringing focus and your breath to each area of your body until you feel relaxation penetrate each body part. If more work is needed to refresh, try adding stretching to your breathing or going for a walk.
I know it sounds simplistic, but smiling really does help with your moods and outlook. Initiating and holding a smile can have a huge impact, both on your own mood and on your success in a meeting. And your executive colleagues, staff and business associates will appreciate your sunny demeanor. Your brain doesn't know the difference between a real and a fake smile, so fake it until you make it and spend a moment smiling.
In closing, let me leave you with the fact that mindfulness has really helped me become better at focusing on what matters most and I encourage my fellow CIOs and CTOs who might be feeling the crunch of everyday pressure to give mindfulness a try. It helps your brain stay in shape to make good decisions.
[ Read our related story: 8 ways to fight burnout on IT teams. ]