Joel Gascoigne

Startups, life, learning and happiness

I'm Founder & CEO of Buffer. This is where I share lessons I'm learning.

5 reasons as a CEO you should develop a habit of daily meditation

Written on 31st January, 2013
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Through my journey from a founder whose role it was to essentially build the product and code all day, to growing into a CEO role with more management duties and a fast growing team of 7 people, there have been a lot of challenges and I’ve had to learn new skills over and over.

If you can relate to this, whether you’re a CEO or you find that you have to wear many hats and your role changes a lot, you’ve probably discovered, like me, that the general mentality is that we should be working non-stop and sacrificing our sleep, health and everything else in order to ensure we are successful with our endeavors.

How, then, would we possibly have time to “meditate”? It’s this elusive thing, where tangible benefits are not often associated and even the practicalities of what the activity is, are often not discussed.

Despite all of this, I’ve recently started regularly meditating as soon as I awake in the morning, and just before I sleep in the evening. I’ve found this to have a profound effect on my life and my ability to succeed as a CEO, so I wanted to share the benefits you might get from forming a habit of meditation yourself:

1. You will easily handle the inevitable ups and downs

One thing you can be sure of if you run a startup, is that it’s not all going to be plain sailing. You’re going to have to change your mind, you’re going to run into unexpected events and there are going to be days where nothing works out.

I’ve found that my daily morning and evening meditation helps me to reduce how dramatically these highs and lows can effect my ability to keep moving forward and make progress. Through simply focusing on my breathing for at least 5 minutes each morning, I am brought back to the present moment and over time, I become more and more tolerant to the ups and downs that arise.

2. It will save you time, by reducing procrastination

I truly believe that the purpose of meditation is simply to meditate, but there are of course some amazing benefits that come as a result. I focus on “now” when I meditate, and if you’ve tried to do this you will know how hard it can be. As soon as you close your eyes to meditate, you think about what you’ll do today, whether your metrics will grow as they need to, even what you’ll eat for breakfast and how much time is left on the counter for your meditation session.

The result of having all these unhealthy thoughts come into your mind while you meditate, is that you are practicing letting these thoughts come in and then leave your mind, and you are therefore improving your ability to be unaffected by distractions. I’ve found this carries over to my workday and makes me much more productive.

3. You will have bursts of creative genius

Often after my meditation session I feel so renewed and my mind is so clear, that the activity afterwards is filled with much more creativity. Whether I sit down to work on a most important task, I go to the gym, or I take a shower, I seem to have breakthroughs when I’m doing an activity just after meditating.

Try it for a week. Meditate for just 3 minutes, or try 5 if you can. There are many ways to meditate. Personally, I simply sit cross-legged on a cushion, close my eyes, and focus on breathing in and out. If you try it, I truly believe you will find that you have many more useful thoughts on a consistent basis. In the evening I am doing guided meditation with Headspace, which is also great.

4. You will feel alive and healthy and have better sleep

After I started doing my daily evening meditation session, my sleep became much better. I usually struggle to sleep, and I often have all kinds of thoughts swirling around in my head. After 5 minutes of meditation, those thoughts are emptied from my mind and I’ve found it easier to fall asleep, and in addition the quality of my sleep has been higher.

Through meditation, I have learned to respect my body and be grateful for it. I’m much healthier and I find it easier to restrain myself with food, in a similar way that I have found I can avoid procrastinating. Overall, I feel much more alive.

5. It will make you happy and you’ll find meaning

A great result of feeling alive, healthy and spending more time in the present moment, is that you will naturally be happier. Being happy is being in the present moment. The most common times I’m unhappy are when I’m thinking about the past or the future, so meditation makes me happy. Through regular meditation, I’ve had deeper and deeper sessions where my mind has become even more clear and I’ve let go of my day-to-day worries. This has helped me to much more easily reflect on what I truly want to achieve through my role as the CEO of a startup, and in life itself.

Have you tried a habit of daily meditation? If not, what’s stopping you? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Photo credit: Caleb Roenigk

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