My 2020 Productivity Secret – Mindfulness

Very cliche for some.

I would think thing if someone told me the same thing a few years ago.

Spending my downtime just sitting there and focusing on my breath?

How is that more attractive than binge on Netflix or scrolling through my Facebook feeds?

So it took me a while to warm up to that idea and to give it a go.

Two things helped encourage me.


1. Steve Jobs meditates too

I can’t recall where I first read this. Probably in his autobiography written by Walter Isaccson.

He wasn’t the first famous business person that I read who did meditation but his example somehow left a stronger mark in me.

By then it occurs to me that many famous people I admire seem to mediate.

According to, that ranges from Jeff Weiner, Marc Benioff to Arianna Huffington.

At that time I just started listening to the Tim Ferriss podcast and he would occasionally talk about meditation too.

My naivety tells me they must be on to something. Naivety because there are also plenty of other successful people that don’t meditate.

Still, that is one contributing reason.


2. Headspace

Before meditation apps first appear, the only way for me to learn meditation is through school.

Not wanting to invest in that and spend a few hours with a bunch of strangers sitting quietly in a hall, I decided to read about it online and practice.

I tried that a few times but it didn’t really help. I am unsure if I am meditating the right way.

That is until Headspace came along – and this I got to know through Tim Ferriss podcast as they were a sponsor.

So I downloaded the app and tried their 10-days meditation for free.

It was a much more structured experience and the voice of a narrator really have a calming effect.

I subscribed to Headspace, went on a few premium courses but eventually dropped out.


How monks meditate

As much as I like the app, I didn’t feel the additional perceived benefits was worth paying for.

Image by 4144132 from Pixabay

In reflection, guided meditation is as easy entry but to build up towards an unguided one.

That is how monks meditate – you don’t see them with headphones on Headspace.

Since premium meditation apps charge because of the guidance, I moved to a free version – Oak.

It has very little features but serve my needs nicely.

Til date I have mediated for 48.7 hours on the app (caption)


How meditation has helped me

Mindfulness helped me in two main ways.

One, I find it much easier to focus and isn’t easily distracted as before.

It makes me hate multi-tasking.

So now I allocate time blocks to a single tasks and that really helped me trim my to-do lists very quickly.

I think this is primarily because you are able to keep your urges and emotions in checks.

This applies to tough situations when I typically may react badly to my kid.

With meditation practice, I find I can keep my anger at bay and focus more pragmatically in solving the problem – i.e. how should I talk to him, what is the lesson here, etc

Two, because it helped to suppress my urges/emotions I found it easier to quit vices.

I stopped smoking close to a year now and stopped buying alcohol almost entirely.

I still have a few bottles which previously would take me weeks to finish.

Now it would take me months.

I am now trying to quit caffeine. At the time of this article, I am into day 4. If I can hit day 14, I think I’m good.


Filtering our noises -> Better productivity -> More time for my kids

Meditation has helped me to filter out a lot of externalities and that really helped me in my focus.

Not to spend that time on social media (the urge to get dopamine hit by scrolling mindlessly through feeds is also gone) but to spend it more productively so you can finish your work faster and have more time to do what you love (Yes, you don’t have to love your work. They can be mutually exclusive)

I don’t play games anymore, not really into YouTube and my Netflix account is sorely underused.

my younger son at We Bare Bears cafe

Instead I spend time relaxing and doing things that I enjoy – such as playing with my kids, bringing my dog to the beach (only a 3 mins walk for me from my home) or catch up on my reading.


Singaporeans average working hours

According to MOM, the average Singapore workers put in 44.1 hours per week. Contrast that to the Germans at 34.9 hours (2017).

My (only) trip to Germany a couple years ago gave me a first-hand experience in how they operate.

Image by Peter Dargatz from Pixabay

Little small talk, short lunches and you just work.

Sounds easier than done when you have multiple distractions hovering all around you.

And when they are done, they leave the office.

I saw people started to leave just before 5pm when the official knock off is 5:30pm

Whether that is possible of course depends on the working environment which you can’t really control.

What you can control is yourself.

In hope that when you finally find the ideal working culture where you are measured by output and not clocking in by 9am sharp, you may have the best professional time of your life.

So if you are on the fence or are stuck in your day-to-day, give meditation a try.

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