How do you catch your breath when you’re running a mile a minute through a seemingly endless busy work day? Sometimes the amount of phone calls, emails and tasks to complete can be tremendous, overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. Not to mention having to deal with office politics every day. The answer, is mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a simple practice that involves paying attention to the present moment in an accepting, nonjudgmental way. Research has shown it is a remarkably reliable method for reducing stress, especially at work.
A key step in mindfulness is to step out of “doing mode” into “being mode”. It is about making a conscious choice to be be present, awake and, aware; as opposed to operating on constant “auto-pilot” mode. When you can truly dedicate the time and energy to a task, the quality of the work will be much better than if you’re frazzled and giving your attention out in all directions. It’s important to be aware of what’s going on around you and within you. Letting your mind wander is not the goal here. Make a purposeful decision to be present, and take time to pause throughout the day to reset this objective.
Meditation is a formal way to train the mind to stay aware, present and as a result gain clarity and calm. Here are a few tips to bring Mindfulness into your work life:
- One task at a time. Ever been late to a meeting, while on the phone and typing out an important email or report? I have too. While many people pride themselves on multitasking, the research shows working on several tasks at one time can actually prolong the amount of time it takes to complete a task.
- Turn Off Notifications. Constantly interrupted by texts, email and social media alerts? Turn off the notification to focus what is right in front of you. You can then set aside time to look and answer emails and texts as opposed to constantly checking and responding as they come in.
- Pause to check your breath. Can you sense where you feel your breath? Is in in your chest? your nostrils? your mouth? Where do you feel the sensation of breath the most at this moment?
- Focus on the Good.Ask yourself “What is going well today?” Stop for a moment and try to think of what is going well as opposed to what is not going well.
- Pay attention to what is around you. What do we see in the room that we never recognized before? What do you hear in the room that you never noticed? Is there any smells in the air that you recognize? Can I feel any physical sensations (heart beating, temperature, the texture of your clothing)?
Neuroscience shows that exercising these mental muscles daily can boost the areas of the brain that have to do with attention regulation. Ironically, multitasking, it seems, is simply a myth that actually prevents us from getting our work done.
The objective of mindfulness is not to cease all thinking, or to “clear the mind”. Instead, the goal is to pay close attention to physical sensations, emotions and thoughts so that you might see them more clearly, without making assumptions, or fantasy “what-if” situations.
Mindfulness in the workplace has the potential to foster enhanced decision making, effective communication, stronger teams and leaders, superior creativity and innovation, improved engagement, confidence around change, greater resilience, and positive wellbeing.