You probably know the feeling all too well: you arrive at the office with a clear plan for the day but before you know it it’s a quarter to 5, you’ve only accomplished a few of your priorities, and, most likely, you can’t even remember exactly what you did all day. Research shows that people spend almost 47% of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing – meaning half the time we’re operating on autopilot. This lack of engagement can lead us to feel unfulfilled at the end of the day. Learning to train our minds can bring a greater sense of appreciation and accomplishment into each workday.
Focus & Awareness
Mindfulness techniques help train the mind to 1) be more focused and better able to concentrate, 2) experience more clarity in our thinking and decision making, and 3) approach our work and all of life with equanimity. Two important mindfulness skills are focus and awareness. Focus is the ability to concentrate on what you’re doing in the moment, while awareness is the ability to recognize and release unnecessary distractions as they arise.
Mindful working means applying focus and awareness to everything you do from the moment you enter the office. Focus on the task at hand and recognize and release internal and external distractions as they arise. In this way, mindfulness helps increase effectiveness, decrease mistakes, and even enhance creativity. Here are just three ways you can practice mindfulness in the workplace:
Learning to Prioritize
The average worker checks their email 74 times a day and 70% of work-related emails are handled within six seconds. The constant ding of incoming emails can compromise our concentration and cause us to begin task-switching. When sorting through your inbox, remember to focus on what is important and maintain awareness of what is merely noise. We often feel the need to complete the smaller, quickly accomplished tasks right away, but consider saving the non-time-sensitive emails for later in the day after you’ve completed some of your morning priorities.
Productive Post Lunch
Mornings are often periods of exceptional focus and creativity. But as the day progresses, our brains begin to tire. Mindfulness can help you stay sharp and avoid poor decisions. In the afternoon try setting a timer on your phone to go off every hour. Every time the timer rings, stop what you’re doing and take just one minute to focus on your breath, take note of how you feel both mentally and physically, and bring your awareness to your surroundings. These breaks can help you avoid finishing your day on autopilot and keep your mind fresh and present.
A Mindful Commute
Your commute to and from work is a great time to practice mindful habits. For at least a portion of your commute, turn off your phone, mute the radio, and simply be. Let go of thoughts that arise and bring your awareness to your breathing. By doing this you can develop focus and create calm and relaxation, allowing you to arrive at the office refreshed and ready for the day or arrive home ready to enjoy the evening.