Work throws us in a million directions and tests our ability to balance thought and action. But what if there was a way to channel your thoughts to become a better worker?
Enter mindfulness. Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present, according to Psychology Today. This moment-to-moment awareness allows us to be present and focus on a single activity and not governed by a fixed mindset or process.
Why Mindfulness Works
Multitasking decreases your productivity by as much as 40 percent. Point blank: it does not foster productivity in the workplace. Your highest level of productivity happens when you are able to focus on a single task. And mindfulness is the ticket to do this. Mindfulness benefits our ability to work in the following ways, according to MindBodyGreen:
- It gives us a sense of awareness that will prompt us to be more cognizant of potential distractions and remove them when we choose to focus.)
- It trains our ability to focus for extended periods of time, increasing our ability to be present during long meetings and to retain the information presented to us.
Simple Ways You Can Practice Mindfulness in the Workplace
Mindfulness is all about training your brain, and it’s easier to practice than you think. Here are five simple strategies for creating mindfulness throughout your workday:
1 – Make a List
Each morning, jot down a task list of the things you would like to accomplish in that day, prioritizing with the most important first. Commit to completing each item on the list — one at a time. Give your full attention to that task eliminating thoughts of the other tasks. Cross the task off the list when you have completed it, freeing your thoughts from thinking about it as you work your way down your list.
2 – Cut the Mind Clutter
Develop a deep focus by “singletasking”, or focusing on one thought or action at a time. Focus on removing all internal “chatter.” For example, during a one-on-one meeting with your manager, focus on what your manager is telling you — not about what time it is, what you want for lunch, or your growing to-do list. You’d be surprised how much better your recall and perform at work.
If it’s hard to silence your mind, consider this technique: “park” your thoughts on a piece of paper, then come back to them later.
3 – Close That Email
While email is an incredibly important tool for professional communication, it’s also one of the biggest distractions. Think about it: You hear an alert indicating “You’ve Got Mail” and drop what you’re doing to retrieve the mail. Then, you get sidetracked for 10 to 20 minutes sifting through your inbox.
Luckily, you can practice mindfulness with email, too. To do this, block specific times throughout your day to review and respond to emails. For instance, you can check your inbox when you first get in the office, after lunch, and right before you leave, and specify 30-minute slots to respond during the dedicated “email time.” During the times when you are not reviewing your inbox, close out of your email program completely so you can focus on other tasks more mindfully.
4 – Distractions are Not Limited to Email
Distractions can come in the physical form, too. You can set yourself up for success by reducing or eliminating potential distractions. Does a noisy colleague hinder your ability to work? Post a “Quiet” sign on your office or cubicle entry or put on headphones to eliminate outside noise. If you are consistently distracted by your personal cell phone, put it on “silent” while at work.
Mindfulness can have an incredible impact on the way you work. Consider the above strategies, and add strategies that have worked for you in the comment field below!
Something I learned from consultant days and having billable clients: keep a log of your time. Every time you switch tasks, mark the time. As an exercise, this helped me become aware of how often I would become distracted and therefore I was more able to decide to not follow a thought or distraction in the moment, but stay on the task at hand.
I so want to get better at being “present” and focused on one task at a time. I admit I have been duped by the multitasking myth, too. I am determined to try some of the strategies above and at least improve my focus and mindfulness.