Andy Swindler

October 30, 2015

A Mindful Approach to Business

In our ever-busier world with new distractions and technology pulling us in every direction, it can be hard to manage stress levels and remain focused, efficient and happy. This is certainly true for business leaders, where a lack of clear direction or making a decision based on emotion may have consequences that affect many people adversely.

Most people tend to squander a significant amount of life becoming attached to unproductive thoughts. These might be about the past, which is useful for context but otherwise no longer exists. Or they might be able the future, which is beyond our control no matter how much we worry.

We also tend to waste time by piling and mixing up tasks, believing we are capable of multitasking, which we are not. I know I often think I can do this because I am good at faking it by switching rapidly back and forth between tasks. But as I explore the slower pace of mindful awareness, I’m realizing that completing one task at a time well actually saves me time overall.

For the past few weeks, I’ve attended A Mindful Course™ offered by Dr. Chris Johnson of Q4 Consulting, one of Astek’s clients. It’s largely based on the decades-long work of John Kabat Zinn and his work to develop the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program in his own clinic, where he sees consistent first-hand success helping people handle life and pain more effectively.

Dr. Chris Johnson, Q4 Consulting, mindfulness business training

In his book, Full Catastrophe Living, Zinn discusses the seven attitudinal factors of mindfulness. They are:

  1. Non-judging
  2. Patience
  3. Beginner’s mind
  4. Trust
  5. Non-striving
  6. Acceptance
  7. Letting go

As Dr. Chris puts it, mindfulness is an intentionally focused awareness — a way of paying attention on purpose in the present moment and non-judgmentally. I won’t go into detail about these since there are multiple resources for you to explore if you’d like, including the book itself, which I highly recommend.

So how to we pay attention in the moment rather than reaching for our smartphone every two minutes?

Meditation is an important aspect of the practice. Your mind is a muscle like any other that can be strengthened through practice. Meditation, starting with being aware of your breath, is a way to practice how you can stay calm when dealing with a more stressful moment. Your breath is a grounding resource that can center you to the present reality at all times. Once you are facing reality, rather than what you may wish is happening, you’ll be better equipped to move through it with focus, balance and grace.

Mindfulness tree branches crossing by Andy Swindler, copyright

And what does this have to do with business?

In the short few weeks that I have engaged in a daily meditation practice, as well as other exercises, I have noticed an increased ability to handle stressful situations and sidestep communication patterns that I may historically have been drawn into. I have focused on completing one task at a time. This translates to stronger mentoring and communication with my team; setting clearer expectations and boundaries with clients; and creating focused direction for the company.

Writing this blog is a good example. I haven’t blogged in months since it always falls to the bottom of my to-do list. In my experience working with clients to set up blogging programs, this is a very common pattern. A mindful approach asks the question, “why is it on the to-do list if it’s never going to get done?” Either do it or simplify by removing it. So I made time for it.

Of course I’m not always great at doing this. That’s not the point. We are human after all. It’s more about practicing and not judging yourself when you make mistakes and go awry. Mindfulness practice focuses on developing the ability to be aware of emotions while they are happening so that you can make better choices about what to do with them. Emotions are a wonderful part of being human, but they can be their own distraction if we let them take over.

Here’s a simple meditation exercise:

Try sitting still, in an upright yet comfortable position, for five minutes. See if you can focus on your breath for that time without altering it. If that’s too much, just try two minutes. I can promise you will get distracted. Once you realize you’ve stopped focusing on your breath, take note of the thought and its intensity, and then return to focusing on your breath. The mere act of practicing this repeated return to focus helps strengthen your awareness and focus.

Then try it every day for a week. Then a month. You get the idea. I hope that you’ll start to see the clarity that this practice is bringing to me in my daily life. If you like it, Q4 Consulting is a wonderful resource to get more information about a formal study of mindfulness.

Teressa Catrambone

September 2, 2014

7 Ways to use Twitter to Support a Live Event

Social media exists as a way to break down the barriers of communication to allow information to move unfettered from person to person. We recently activated a social media campaign for our client E2MA at their annual Red Diamond Congress.

We focused on engagement as the key goal for the social media campaign – to engage with event attendees as well as the colleagues who were unable to attend. We chose to use Twitter for its real-time nature, ease of use and popularity. The campaign went very well and garnered considerable engagement from both event attendees and those who were unable to be there in person. We always like to share what worked/doesn’t work with our readers, the following are the seven tips that will help you create a successful Twitter campaign for a live event.

John Armstrong

July 11, 2014

From the Launchpad – A B2B Website Redesign for Pioneer Environmental Services

pioneer b2b website design development 6

It’s a perfect match: Both Astek and Pioneer Environmental Services work to efficiently and effectively clean up clients’ sites. Although Astek wasn’t testing soil or performing intricate remediation tactics, we were better aligning Chicago-based Pioneer’s website with their brand, developing an improved mobile experience, offering information and functionalities important to customers and optimizing copy for search engine traffic – all very important elements to a new B2B website redesign and development. 

Benedict Wong

July 8, 2014

Straight from the Astek Team

Astek officeWhile we launch new websites on a regular basis, it is not every day we get to launch a new website for ourselves. As you may have heard from Andy’s recent post, we redesigned and launched Astek site, and I have to say – we are all happy and proud parents to the new site.

Since we are consummate professionals, especially when it comes to website redesigns, we energetically debated over every call to action, design element and responsive choices because, well, that’s what we do!

Rather than walk you through all the decisions we’ve made in the site redesign (which is a small novel in length), we’d like to share with you our personal thoughts on what the new website means to us. Enjoy!

John Armstrong

March 19, 2014

Another B2B Website Design Launched: Corporate Concepts

B2B Website Design and Development


Lift off! We’re proud to have launched another B2B website design and development project for our friends at Corporate Concepts. This popular vendor for high-end office furniture and workplace accessories hired us to design a unique look and brand for a company determined to stand out in what is generally a conservative space. The design offered an aesthetic that represents the high-quality and fine design of their products, as well as a user-experience as comfortable as this Knoll chair they sell.

John Armstrong

December 26, 2013

Architecture Website Project: Booth Hansen

Booth Hansen Architecture Website DesignArchitecture firms have websites that are perfectly positioned to take advantage of the internet’s growth as a primarily visual medium. While many businesses are struggling to find the time and resources to record even the most successful projects, architects usually have a plethora of beautiful designs sitting on a computer waiting to be displayed. The nature of their work requires a multi-perspective representation of aesthetics, utility and innovation. These pictures are credibility. They differentiate. They lead directly to new business.

The question is, “How do you design a website that can showcase 300+ images for 90 projects in a way that can be segmented by project type and easily scanned by prospective clients?” <breathe> Now equally as important: “How do you allow the staff to easily create and edit projects in the future?”