Let me know if this at all sounds familiar?
You’re first thought upon waking is the assembly of today’s “To-Do” list and by the time you arrive at work you’re being to feel the twinge of overwhelm. You make an effort to participate in idle conversation with coworkers but other thoughts hold you back. So back to the grind you go – attempting to “multi-task” amidst distractions, juggling duties as the priorities sporadically change.
Upon arriving back home you’re asked if anything interesting happened today and though tired, you struggle to recall anything of importance.
If you aren’t fully invested in the moment it can feel next to impossible to remember and truly appreciate the day you had at work.
An average full-time job is 40 hours a week (or at least it’s supposed to be) – But how many of those hours can you confidently look back on knowing you engaged in (attended to and appreciated) your day?
If you answered not many, there is no need to worry – you’re certainly not alone.
According to a survey of 2,000 people conducted by the personal financial management service Think Money, only half said they spend six hours or more productively working on an average day, and as many as a tenth of people admitted to achieving just half an hour of productive output per day.
To combat the seemingly endless feeling of treading water at work, we’ve regularly included mindfulness training into our workshops and individual coaching practice. And we’ve begun seeing results similar to those in noted studies – injecting a corporate culture of mindfulness not only improves focus, but the ability to manage stress and how employees work together.
Want to improve your mindfulness? Here are our top 3 tips you can implement right away in order to have a more mindful lifestyle at work.
1) Love All Tasks…Even The Tedious Ones!
No matter how far along you are in your career there will always be tasks that aren’t exactly considered thrilling. Yet still they must be done. Fad management techniques might suggest that you define big goals then break them into smaller objectives – implying a larger meaning to the smallest of tasks in order to get through. But such masking and distraction only furthers the problem.
I’m often reminded of a story told by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen Buddhist monk, scholar, poet, and a political figure from Vietnam. He writes:
“While washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes, which means that while washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes. At first glance, that might seem a little silly:
“Why put so much stress on a simple thing? But that’s precisely the point. The fact that I am standing there and washing these bowls is a following my breath, conscious of my presence, and conscious of my thoughts and actions. There’s no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves.”
If while completing an uninteresting task, we think only of the future outcome that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the task out of the way as a nuisance, then we are not “washing the dishes to wash the dishes.” What’s more, we are not fully engaged during the time we are working on the task. We’re ripe for distraction and prone to error. In fact we are completely incapable of valuing our contribution (much less enjoying the activity) while working – and chances are we won’t enjoy the future outcome either.
Next time you have a “boring” task to complete at work, instead of feeling bad about it, become aware of what you are doing and feeling in the present moment.
Once you learn to live in the moment and appreciate all your day-to-day activities it will become a habit you do not want to break.
2) Take Time to Listen & Learn From Others
I have purposefully skewed my coaching practice towards working with high performers – achievers – disrupters – people who make an impact. And while everyone is different, one of things that most of my clients share is the belief that the knowledge and habits that have brought them this far are not sufficient to reach the next level. Said another way: they are always learning and growing – recalibrating their perspective and enabling themselves for a better tomorrow.
Life is all about learning and having new experiences. And so it follows that limiting yourself to only seeing things from your own singular perspective restricts your ability to learn and grow – effectively capping your potential.
Although coaching is perhaps the most effective way to shift your perspective, you can take similar steps on your own by increasing your willingness to learn from your current coworkers and mentors.
Even if you find yourself disagreeing with an idea at first don’t let that stop you from listening and evaluating it independently of your own beliefs. Here is an exercise to help:
The next time you find yourself in a meeting with colleagues, pay attention to what each person is saying. Resist the urge to offer your own opinion (turn off the internal dialogue rehearsing what you’re going to say next) and simply ask questions that help the other person to make their point. When done, move your attention to the next speaker.
Who knows, you may leave the meeting with a new idea that can positively affect your future business decisions.
3) Value Your Breaks
A study of office workers and managers by Staples discovered that even though 66 percent of employees spend more than 8 hours a day at work, more than a quarter of them don’t take a break other than lunch. One in five employee respondents said guilt was the reason they don’t step away from their workspaces.
Working 8 hours straight with no breaks may feel like the best way to finish a project at first, but in reality, it is far from the truth. Here’s what the Harvard Business Review has to say about it:
When you work on a task continuously, it’s easy to lose focus and get lost in the weeds. In contrast, following a brief intermission, picking up where you left off forces you to take a few seconds to think globally about what you’re ultimately trying to achieve.
Without setting aside time to really disengage you’re likely only causing yourself additional (and unnecessary) stress and anxiety.
Do This Instead:
Take your calendar and schedule in 10-minute breaks every few hours for 1 week. During these 10-minute breaks get up from your workspace, leave your cell phone behind, and take a walk.
Spend a few moments just checking in with yourself. Notice any areas of stress and try to relax them. Stretch. Create some mental space by allowing your mind to drift. You may be surprized at how refreshed and energized you feel when the ten minutes are up.
After implementing these 3 easy tips the next time you’re asked about your day, I’m confident you will have a lot more to say!
How do you practice mindfulness at work? Do you notice a difference in your life when you implement mindfulness techniques?