What makes you more productive from one day to the next? Color-coded schedules? Headphones? Ginkgo biloba?
If we could only name and bottle the right things that help us manage time and work at our best, we’d be set. But that’s not how people work. Our daily lives are more than the sum of tasks on a list. Last week, Alisa Blum and Judy Sugg from AIM for Organizational Health gave two workshops that looked at ways to boost productivity and master time management using the principles of mindfulness. The workshops were centered around useful tools within everyone’s reach, which help individuals drown out internal noises to stay focused in a calm, balanced way.
After wrapping up the sessions, we sat down with Alisa and Judy to speak more about AIM Portland, their organization, and the work they’re doing with regional and national businesses.
Mindfulness isn’t an “add-on” – it is the homebase to come back to when we are under stress. It’s a practice that grows from technique to a pervasive life stance.Judy Sugg
How’d you get together?
Judy: One thing that we had in common was a strong belief in the power of mindfulness. Not only in the physical, mental, and behavioral changes that mindfulness can help, but also how it can transform a workday into something that is creative, powerful, and meaningful for people. We transitioned from business consulting work into saying “here’s what we really want to do. Here’s a passion that we have.”
Alisa: What’s a little different about what we do is that we really focus on direct application. We integrate mindfulness with other skills, so people have a lot of different tools that they can take with them when they leave a session.
Tell me about your backgrounds.
Judy: I have an MBA and have worked in business, finance, and management for 14 years. I got really burned out and stressed out, so I went back to school and switched my whole career to psychology. My doctorate is in psychology and I’m licensed as a counselor. I’ve worked in the overlap between businesses and people, with the strong belief that businesses are people.
Alisa: I have a master’s in social work. I worked in psychiatric hospitals, mental health clinics, and private practices, and after 12-13 years of some pretty intensive work, I started moving into training. I did training for graduate social work programs. I loved that training piece. I combined my interest in training with my expertise in mental health to focus on enhancing organizational effectiveness.
Can you explain how mindfulness can help?
Judy: One of the organizations I work with is Living Yoga, which takes free yoga classes into prisons and addiction facilities. The idea is that this is helpful. Now the research is out and it’s starting to show how powerful of an intervention something like this can be, and how it can change people’s lives. When we talk about what really makes a difference, teaching people how to pay attention, to come back to themselves, to stay healthy, to stay focused, is so powerful. And can change lives, especially in places like prisons.
What are some of the typical problems you address when giving workshops like this?
Alisa: We have found a lot of similar issues in different companies. People are struggling with having too much to do and not enough time, managing conflict better, communicating better, handling stress better… so no matter what the industry is, the identifying problem might be a little different, but the underlying issue is similar.
Judy: They’re human issues.
There seems to have been a shift in corporate culture. Have you noticed a change in work-life balance?
Alisa: I work with different generations in the workplace. Younger people are pushing work-life balance more. There is more recognition that we’re people, and we have other needs that will help us be more productive when those needs are met.