Our days are filled with endless tasks, some confronting and challenging (lead gen, listing appointments, negotiations, etc.) and some boring and mindless (updating the CRM, handling bulk marketing, sifting through emails, etc.).

The constant stream of activity, and the lack of clear boundaries as to when this activity starts and stops, adds to the experience of it being relentless (and thus burnout, resignation, upsets, etc.).

But what if you could break out of this hamster wheel of activity? What if you created systems that allow you (force you?) to see, and therefore act, in new ways?

In his book The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferris emphasizes the importance of breaking out of the routine to rethink productivity. His whole point is to create systems that allow for greater efficiency and freedom. 

But we often automatically translate that thinking into terms and systems that generate ROI or CGI—money-making activities. Please don’t get this wrong—I am a big fan of money-making activities. It’s just not the only place we can create systems and structures that allow us to create freedom for ourselves.

In Tools of Titans, Ferris dives deeper into the habits and routines of highly successful individuals, discovering that mindfulness practices play a crucial role in their success. He found that 80% of top performers incorporate mindfulness techniques to enhance focus, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being. 

Assuming you think 80% is not a flukey number – that is, if the vast majority of the world’s highest achievers do this one thing – maybe it’s worth exploring. Let’s look at a simple practice to insert mindfulness into our day.

Getting the Monkey Under Control

The concept of the “monkey mind” is a metaphor used in Buddhism to describe the restless, unsettled, and uncontrollable nature of human thought (those of us who ever took Keller Williams’ BOLD are familiar with this already). Our thoughts are like a monkey swinging from tree to tree, never staying still.

Eastern mystics have known about the inefficiency and damage this does to us for centuries, with the West recently catching up. Nobel Prize winners Kahneman and Tversky introduced us to cognitive biases in the 1970s, creating the entire field of behavioral economics in the late 1970s.

Kahneman calls these automatic ways of thinking, which happen every moment, System 1 thinking. It is reactive, fast, and uses our past to make instant assessments and judgments. It often leads to errors and incorrect, inefficient decisions.

In other words, it’s the monkey making our decisions. And the hardest part of it is we don’t know we are doing it when we are doing it.

It’s not all a bad thing. Once we learn how to drive (or do any complicated task), over time, we can learn to do it with less and less attention. The monkey will take over. I recently taught my teens how to drive, and it brought up the immense amount of awareness needed by them for everything from mirror placement to seat adjustment that I simply don’t pay attention to anymore—and all too soon, neither will they. It will become automatic.

That automaticity, that ability for the mind to wander and yet perform complicated tasks, is also at the source of our spiraling with worry, stress, or thoughts of things not going well. That we allow the monkey to swing from tree to tree unchecked, in any (and every) situation, is inefficient and often detrimental to our experience of success, freedom and joy. 

Tony Robbins talks about the power of rituals in shaping our state and performance. For the most part, the idea of a morning ritual of journaling, exercise, mediation, etc. is not new for most in the industry.  

For sure, starting our day in the right head space is critical – these are practices that work – if you don’t have a morning ritual that creates a calming, mindful, intentional space for you to launch your day, start with that.

But if you want to take it up a notch, here’s a practice that is both simple and a game-changer in getting the monkey to settle down.

Introducing Mindful Interruption

Mindful interruption is a simple yet powerful practice in which you deliberately stop what you’re doing at regular intervals throughout your day to take a few minutes to breathe and reset. This technique is inspired by mindfulness practices and backed by modern psychology.

Mel Robbins, known for her 5 Second Rule, emphasizes quick, decisive actions to change behavior. Mindful interruption works similarly. It’s about shutting down the autopilot, often the source of repetitive negative thoughts, and consciously choosing to pause and breathe.

It’s taking one small, simple (not always easy) step to regain control of yourself from your default monkey mind.

How to Implement Mindful Interruption

  1. Set an Alarm: Use your phone to set an alarm that goes off every hour. When the alarm rings, it’s your cue to pause whatever you’re doing. I like the random bell in the Mindfulness App – it rings for me once an hour at random. If it went off at the same time every hour, I’d find it predictable, and it wouldn’t have the same effect on me, but you should start where you feel most comfortable.
  2. Breathe: Spend three minutes focusing on your breath. Inhale deeply through your nose, hold for a few seconds, and exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat this process. I use a 4-7-8 pattern (another free app called “Breathing” has loads of different breath patterns if you want to explore). In the beginning you might just start by taking three slow breaths and working your way up to three minutes. As always, be gentle with yourself when implementing a new practice.
  3. Observe and Reflect: Notice how you feel. Are you stressed or anxious? Are you calmer and more present? Acknowledge your thoughts without judgment. I almost always want to jump right back into what I was doing before I was (so rudely) interrupted. Don’t do that. Reflect on what you were doing before the alarm. Are you ready to tackle it with renewed energy and focus? Are there changes you feel like making? Make the next move with deliberate intention.

That’s it. Simple? Yup. 

Annoying? Hell, yeah, it is.

Overcoming Resistance

It’s natural to resist this practice. You might think, “I don’t have time for this.” Or the bell will ring, and you’ll think, “I’ll do the next one.” I have both those thoughts almost every time.

Mostly, I just think, “F@$K!!!!!!”  

Do not ignore the pain of breaking free from the monkey mind – this will hurt. It’s not unlike breaking an addiction. 

The real challenge isn’t the three minutes—it’s breaking away from the never-ending flow of what there is to do that is always coming at us.

Mindful interruption forces you to stop and evaluate what you’re doing, giving you a fresh perspective and a chance to refocus. 

Side Effects of this Practice Include

  1. Reduced Stress: Taking regular breaks to breathe and reflect can significantly reduce stress levels. You’ll find yourself feeling more in control and less overwhelmed.
  2. Improved Focus: By interrupting your automatic thinking, you can break free from distractions and enhance your focus on important tasks.
  3. Better Decision Making: Mindfulness helps in making more thoughtful and clear-headed decisions, which is crucial in real estate negotiations and client interactions.
  4. Enhanced Well-being: Regular pauses for mindful breathing can improve your overall sense of well-being, making you more resilient to the pressures of the job.
  5.  Greater Productivity: When you take time to reset, you return to your tasks with renewed energy and clarity, leading to increased productivity.

Real-World Application

This is where you’ll need to dance to find what works for you. I personally don’t do this when I am engaged in concentrated work – like writing this blog post, working on CMA’s, prepping for a listing appointment, etc. 

If I am flowing creatively, I want to keep that going.

But if I am doing something tedious, something mindless, where my monkey mind would normally roam free, like driving, or data entry, or cleaning my office, well then, that’s where I want to practice.

I will also intentionally practice before, after, or on a scheduled break of some concentrated activity – before a listing appointment, after I draft a contract and want to review it with fresh eyes, before I pick up the phone to negotiate with another agent (and then again after so I know what there is to communicate to my client).

Finding where to fit this is up to you – some people work out in the morning, some in the afternoon, and some in the evening. When you practice is far less important than making sure you practice.

Mindful interruption is a powerful tool that can help us break free from the relentlessness of our workdays, reduce stress, and improve productivity.  

We all “know” life is about the journey and this is a small practice to put that into effect.

Ultimately the choice is, either your mind is going to control your life, or you are going to control your mind. 

Those are the only two choices we have in life.  Intentionally taking control of your mind is your shot at regaining control.

So, set that alarm, take three minutes to breathe, and watch how this simple practice reshapes your life, day by day.

Pro Tip: the goal isn’t to be perfect—it’s to make progress. As James Clear points out, if you get 1% better each day, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better in a year. 

Go for it. Have fun. Free yourself from the monkey!

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