Business owners deal with distraction all day long – everything from cars honking to printers whirring, there seems to always be a sound to steal a bit of our attention. However, there is also another source of distraction that can be much more pernicious. Mental noise, defined by Success Consciousness, includes:
- Thoughts that repeat themselves over and over again.
- Dwelling on the past or fearing the future.
- Compulsive inner monologue that disturbs our peace and makes the mind busy.
- Constant analysis of our and other people’s situations, reactions and behavior.
These features of our mental lives tend to take away our ability to be present and pay full attention to the people, work, and activities that are around us in the moment. Make no mistake: people can tell when your mind is elsewhere. Most likely, the reason it is elsewhere is because of all that mental noise, drawing your focus to past experiences, current worries, or future plans.
The Benefits of Mental and Physical Silence
Many studies have discovered the benefits of placing yourself in spaces that have no noise happening in them. According to Nautilus, a study of the mental effects of music observed that the two-minute silences between songs were actually more relaxing to the mind than any amount of “relaxing” music. Medical Daily links silence to everything from stimulated brain growth, lowering insomnia symptoms, and a healthy immune system. Silence is also linked to creativity, reflection, and becoming more aware and sensitive to surroundings.
If this physical silence is helpful, imagine how much more useful a targeted attempt at silencing mental noise might be. The two are linked: physical silence is one of the best ways to begin to notice and thus quiet the mental noise. When bombarded with outside stimuli, it’s easy to let the mental noise play on, gathering new stimuli and mixing them with old ruminations and thoughts. However, “mental silence” is something akin to the goals of meditation: mental silence involves a true rest for your brain. It may still involve some thoughts, but the thoughts come and leave without becoming loops, patterns, or something to dwell on. In between, there is a growing silence where your brain can actually lower its heightened level of sense, gaining some needed respite from constant thinking.
How to Promote Mental Silence in General
Notice Your Rhythms: Mental silence isn’t all about spiritual or self-reflective practice: it’s very practical as well. Entrepreneur magazine points out how adding some silence and alone time can prevent burnout in high-intensity careers like start-up businesses. In order to do this in a busy life, you really must be honest with yourself: when are the times that you could isolate yourself enough to let your thoughts quiet? It may take longer than you think, so you need to begin noticing when you are most likely to be open to quieting your mind.
Guide Your Mind With Big-Picture Questions: At first, it can be hard to pull your mind out of the stream of constant mental noise. One way to do this is to redirect it to some questions that help you focus on the most important things. Kelly McGonigal: recommends a few:
There’s a really basic one where you simply ask yourself, “If anything were possible, what would I welcome or create in my life?” Another question is, “When I’m feeling most courageous and inspired, what do I want to offer the world?” And the third question is, “When I’m honest about how I suffer, what am I willing to let go of, or what do I want to make peace with?”
Modify Your Physical Environment For Lower Stimuli: Many of us make the mistake of trying to meditate in a space that is fundamentally distracting. Anything you see in your space can trigger thoughts of work, relationships, family, and the future, so get serious about your space. Find somewhere in your office or home where you can sit comfortably without seeing any photographs, items, or decor that will draw your brain back into the noisy world. When you are ready, introduce an abstract art print or something else that doesn’t have a definite meaning but is pleasing to look at: this can actually help with focus.
How to Silence the Distractions While Running a Business
Give Yourself Hard Cut-Offs For Business and Pleasure: Sometimes, the experience of work is so overwhelming and engrossing that you may find yourself neglecting family and friends at times, while at other times you feel like the people around you are impeding your business success. One important way to promote your own quality of life is to know when you are working and when you are off the clock, even if it feels like you need to put in some serious extra time to get your business off the ground.
Track Your Distraction Day and Start Cutting Them Off: We all have something that gets us: a news website, our chat with the reception worker in the building, or a calming game on a cell phone. For one day, take note of every single time something takes your focus away from your target task. The next day, make it your goal to avoid one of those items. Then, try for two. You’ll see that the benefits in increased focus are well worth the loss of these small distracting pleasures.
Accurately Budget Time for Relationship-Building Activities: As a business owner, remember that the time you spend with potential clients or networking is never wasted; you may not have time to do a ton of it every week, but it’s incredibly valuable. To silence some of your mental noise, give yourself a full estimate of how much time it will take. Rather than budgeting 15 minutes for a phone call when you know this client likes to chat, budget the full hour and move on early if it works out. When you budget the time for building relationships, you don’t get as stressed and distracted.
By learning to appreciate, pursue, and sustain some mental silence, you’ll start to see some of the medical and emotional benefits mentioned above. Practicing these tactics can be part of a whole-life balance that makes you more satisfied and at peace with your career, relationships, and other experiences.