I’ve never been a big fan of video games.  However, I remember the excitement of getting my first Nintendo Game Boy.  Mindful oDesk WorkersFor those of you who share this memory, you probably also recall playing Tetris.  My brother and I would hook our Game Boys together and play for hours (or at least until one of us decided the other was cheating).  There was something addictive about that game.  Perhaps it was the satisfaction of making all the blocks fit together.  Perhaps it was the thrill of competing with my brother.

In reality, I think it was something else that made the game so enjoyable:  mindlessness.  In this article, I want to explore the difference between being mindful and acting mindlessly in a virtual business environment.

Some Definitions

Let’s first take a look at how Webster defines these two concepts:

  • Mindful –  adjective – 1. bearing in mind, 2. inclined to be aware
  • Mindless – adjective – 1. marked by or displaying no use of the powers of the intellect, 2. requiring little attention or thought; especially : not intellectually challenging or stimulating, 3. not mindful

Why Do We Like Mindless Activities?

Since launching my own virtual business, I’ve noticed I actually enjoy things that involve manual labor.  Sitting behind a computer all day can be quite mentally exhausting.  Mowing the grass, washing the dishes, or staining a fence can serve as a release from the day’s stress.  It turns out, I’m not the only person who’s observed this phenomenon.  An interesting article from HealthyWomen.org discusses this very topic:

Researchers say that certain activities, though tedious and repetitive, can actually have a soothing effect by short-circuiting stressful thought patterns.

In a nutshell, mindless activities are soothing.  They allow us to find a comfort zone by performing tasks that take our minds off of more stressful things.

Are There “Mindless” Business Activities?

We’ve established that mindlessness might be OK for relieving stress.  But, are there business processes that might also be considered mindless?  Think about your daily routine.  What tasks could you perform in your sleep?   Here are a few I’ve come up with for my home-based marketing business:

  • Data entry – such as hour tracking (free download here, by the way)
  • Document filing – such as organizing new whitepapers that I’ve downloaded, etc
  • Running software updates – it seems like Adobe has at least 1 new update each day!

So, are these actually “mindless” business activities?  I would argue they are not mindless, but they simply provide less value  than more important activities.  In fact, it may be wise to outsource such activities to an administrative team.

Avoiding the Drift from Mindful to Mindless

The most value I can provide customers occurs when I’m being completely mindful of their needs.  In such circumstances, I’m able to understand both the strategic and tactical elements of a successful game plan.  However, I find that working from home can sometimes cause you to drift away from the mindful and into the mindless.  Getting mired down in details has a tendency to drive such a shift.  To avoid this, an Executive in Sweatpants must proactively manage himself and stay focused on the bigger picture.  Hold regular client meetings and center the discussion on big picture goals.  Work with your clients and develop a strategy that is focused on maximizing value.  In doing so, you will always be more mindful than mindless.

Executive in Sweatpants is the upcoming book from marketer and author Matt Keener.  The book is a how-to guide for launching and growing a successful work-from-home consulting business.  Sign up to receive future blog postings and news sent directly to your email inbox.

Written by Matt Keener

Matt Keener is the original "Executive in Sweatpants," having built a successful online consulting business (from home). His best-selling book offers tips for capitalizing on outsourcing and freelancing. Matt holds an MBA and has been featured by many recognizable brands, including Upwork (formerly oDesk), Elance, Insightly, the Dave Ramsey Show, and Entrepreneur.com.

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