I’m completely addicted to my phone. It helps me do so many things that are important to me — take a million photos of my kids, stay in close touch with my big group of hilarious college friends and, probably most importantly, work without missing a beat even as I’ve moved around the country.
But I also hate my phone. It makes my eyes hurt and leaves me feeling overwhelmed almost every day. I even fantasize about completely giving up my phone, cold turkey. I could get a landline. I could write people letters. I could talk to my husband without simultaneously texting someone or sending an email.
I know there has to be a happy medium. I’m working to find ways to stay connected while also being more present and less distracted, both when I’m working and when I’m not.
So I was intrigued when I saw the title of Lisa Nirell’s book “The Mindful Marketer.” She wrote the book to help marketers stay focused in a world full of data and noise. I asked Lisa her advice.
Take More Time to Look Inward
“I think the world is in need of more time to reflect and think before acting,” she says. That goes double for marketers. “There are a lot of changes going on in the marketing profession. Customers are feeling it — they’re barraged with information. And I don’t believe tech is the answer.”
“Instead of doing more, people need to be more,” she says. “We need to focus on self-discovery and self-awareness to thrive in times of turmoil.”
Sign me up.
Find Restorative Practices That Work for You
I asked Lisa about her own work habits, looking for the secret sauce. But she was careful to say that there’s no one right way to achieve mindfulness or save yourself from distraction. Lisa says some people practice meditation, others do yoga to “slow down the monkey mind” and focus on breathing and others consider walks in nature and being disconnected from all technology to be restorative.
Lisa’s personal practice involves meditation (she recommends the guided-meditation app Headspace), journaling and reading poetry that makes her feel grounded. Her favorite poets are Mary Oliver, David White, Rilke, Hafiz and Rumi.
I love the idea of breaking up the workday by reading something completely unrelated and inspiring. Creative work can be draining, and there’s nothing like reading someone else’s work to boost your creative energy.
Lisa coaches marketers and marketing leaders, and one of their key pain points is meetings. Especially if you work at a large organization, meetings can take over your calendar, not leaving much space for creativity. Lisa’s advice: Be intentional about how you design every conversation.
She encourages everyone to consider goals before every meeting begins. Her clients sit down and write answers to the questions: What is the minimum best outcome of this phone call or meeting? What would be the maximum best outcome?
After each meeting, they ask: What worked? What didn’t work? What’s my takeaway or action step?
Another pro tip from Lisa on staying present at work: Don’t schedule back-to-back meetings. Give yourself a 10-minute window between conversations to reflect. “It’s a way to get rid of the mental friction we have in our daily lives,” she says.
Build a Safe Haven
As a marketer, I increasingly feel like experimenting and taking big chances are the only ways to break through the noise. Following the status quo is boring, and the online world is too crowded already.
Lisa helps marketers build stronger, deeper communities — to create safe havens where they can innovate and take risks. “They can share problems and ideas without the fear of competitive backlash,” she says. She’s set up peer groups of marketing leaders in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and virtually to help people tap into collective wisdom and bounce ideas around.
Do you have a safe haven where you can experiment and brainstorm? If you don’t have that luxury within your own organization, maybe it’s time to reach out to your peers and build your own.
Look for Inspiration in Unexpected Places
Finally, Lisa says she looks outside her own discipline to stay inspired. I always ask people what they’re reading, and Lisa had a long list. “I just finished ‘Mating in Captivity’ by Esther Perel, and I’m trying to get through a biography of Leonardo DaVinci by Walter Isaacson,” she told me. “I love reading about artists and adventurers.”
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or distracted, try taking a break and reading, watching or listening to something new. You never know where you might find your next inspiration or big idea.