Does your mind ever wander? Do you ever get distracted from what you’re supposed to be doing by something much more interesting? Do you ever speak without thinking? Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the sheer variety of what you’ve got to do?
If you’re answering no to these questions, you’re probably quite a mindful person. For the rest of us, mindfulness may be worth working on…
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is being aware and focused on the present moment, on the task in hand. In so many ways, we sleepwalk through the day, carrying out tasks semi-automatically, with just enough conscious thought to get the job done.
Being mindful means being aware of both yourself and your surroundings, what you doing and what’s going on around you. Thinking about Task B while trying to complete Task A is not mindful. Devoting your full attention to Task A then, when it’s done, shifting that attention to Task B is.
“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness.
Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.”
–Jon Kabat-Zinn, Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care,
and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Benefits of mindfulness at work
Mindfulness at work has been found to boost emotional intelligence and creativity, and improve stress management and decision-making.
In addition, mindfulness can lead to:
- More focus and clarity at work
- Improved time management skills
- Greater calm in a crisis situation
- Better communication
- Enhanced workplace wellbeing
Applications for mindfulness in the workplace
Clichés aside, practicing and improving your mindfulness does not necessarily mean an hour’s meditation in the full lotus position every morning (though that would help). If you want to display and enjoy greater calm and capability in frustrating meetings, calls with difficult customers, or broken supply chains (etc. ad nauseam) there are plenty of opportunities to practice being more mindful at work…
- Single-tasking – Nobody can do two things at once. What people call multitasking is the brain rapidly switching back and forth between two or more issues, usually lacking or losing focus in the process. It makes us feel productive but it doesn’t make us actually productive. One thing at a time.
- Less daydreaming – The mind wanders, especially during routine, repetitive tasks. Unfortunately, we never do our best work on autopilot. And should anything out of the ordinary crop up, a wandering mind is less prepared to deal with it.
- Take a break – There are plenty of circumstances when we need to work fast, and furious. But an unrested mind makes rushed decisions and choices. And not every task needs to be done at full-tilt boogie. When possible, taking a short break (a 5-minute sit down, a quick stroll around the block…) can relax and refocus the mind.
- Focus on what’s going well – Yes, this is the old positive thinking chestnut. Thing is, it works. We see what we focus on. If you think about the negatives (maybe a terrible boss, unrealistic deadlines, the office politics…) then work feels like a negative place to be – not an feeling that’s going to help you do your best work. On the other hand, focus on whatever the positives are (you work with a supportive team, you’re learning new skills, you have a holiday coming up…) builds resilience and stops you spiralling into anxiety and stress.
If you do feel that it’s all getting too much or that you just cannot focus on what you’re doing, breathe. Focusing on your breathing isn’t just for yogis and Zen Buddhists! Just take a moment (combine this with the break you’re taking above!) and concentrate on your breathing… in… out… in… out… deep and slow and calming. This is an automatic stress-reducer in the moment (next time you’re stressed, notice how you’re breathing – I bet it’s faster and shallower than usual). Focus on yourself, then re-focus on the task. Take a minute, observe yourself as you breathe, and return (a little calmer) to whatever was stressing you out.
And yes, all this can be much easier said than done. But none of these suggestions takes a lot of time, and practice makes perfect, or at least, mindful.
If you’re interested in further exploring mindfulness and how it can apply to the workplace, check out our short training session, Mindfulness – an introduction. Or give us a call on 01582 463463; we’re here to help.