It’s easy to get caught up in the world around us—to react to events without thinking about what they mean to us, to judge others without a thought about what may be happening in their world, and to allow distractions to keep us from doing what we should be doing At that moment. It’s this way of reacting to events and situations that lead to many people being stressed out, overwhelmed, and busy.
Becoming more mindful at work means we step back and take a few minutes when events happen and analyze their meaning to us at the moment. It means we don’t react immediately. Instead, we pause, consider the situation, and then act.
A simple example of this can be seen every day. We notice an elderly person struggling to carry a heavy box or shopping bag up a flight of stairs and yet, so many people walk by lost in their own world of stress and worry without even noticing. A mindful person would be immediately aware of the struggling person and stop and offer help because they are aware of their surroundings at the moment and not lost in the past or future.
One of the benefits of being more mindful is that it can help us to be more focused on our work. It can help us ignore distractions and focus on what’s important and not get lost in the trivialities that often lead to that unproductive feeling of being busy and overwhelmed.
By being more aware of our surroundings and knowing what we are trying to accomplish each day, we can evaluate new inputs—whether they are gossiping colleagues or office emergencies—and decide whether they deserve our full attention or not.
How do we take the practice of mindfulness and apply it to our lives? Here are 8 simple ways you can use to become more mindful at work and help you better focus.
1. Start With a Plan
Most of the reasons why we find it difficult to focus while at work is because we do not start the day with a plan. When you do not have a plan for the day, you are going to be influenced by events and any distractions that come your way.
Being more mindful at work means knowing what you want to accomplish for the day and having a plan to make it happen. But more importantly, it means you have taken some time to think about what is important (and what is not) and evaluate what needs to happen to get the important things done.
Now, your plan for the day does not need to be detailed. It’s simply asking, “what do I want to accomplish today?” That could be to finish a report you have been laboring over for a few weeks. It could be to deliver an outstanding presentation or resolve an issue with a difficult customer.
The key is stepping back at the end of the day and asking yourself what you want to get done tomorrow and writing it down somewhere you will see the next day when you start your work.
2. Begin the Day With a Review of Your Plan
Part of becoming more mindful at work is being aware of what you are trying to accomplish and focusing your energies on accomplishing it. One way to do this is to take the plan you made the previous day, look at it, and visualize completing your plan.
This only takes a few minutes, but you would want to do it in a quiet place, reviewing your list, closing your eyes, and, for a few minutes, imagining yourself completing those tasks. Imagine how you will feel once you have finished and then, slowly opening your eyes and starting the day.
3. Have a Daily Routine to Start the Day
There is a lot written about morning and evening routines, and there’s a good reason. When you begin and end the day in the same way, you put yourself in the right frame of mind to begin and end your day.
Being more mindful at work is all about being more aware of yourself and others and having a set of daily routines that will put you in the right “state” to be aware of what is going on around you. Routines help you be more aware of how you are feeling. You will notice this if you are feeling stressed or tired, and you can ask yourself why you feel that way. You notice differences in the way you feel.
For example, if you start the day with exercise and you notice you are not putting in as much effort as you normally do, you can ask yourself: why? Are you tired? Are you stressed? Is there something on your mind? Asking these questions allows you to be more mindful about your physical and mental condition and you can then take steps to rectify whatever it is that is bothering you.
4. Do One Thing at a Time
By now, you should have realized that ‘multitasking’ is a myth and does not work. When we multitask, we are not really doing two things simultaneously. What we are doing is task-switching, which means our brain is moving from one focus to another at high speed. This is an incredibly inefficient way of working and rapidly leads to tiredness, an inability to focus for long periods of time, and a reduction in our willpower.
Multitasking also means we stop being present because we are trying to focus on too many things at once and when that happens, we are likely to miss important details and make mistakes. Instead, take one piece of work and work on that to the exclusion of everything else. Don’t have multiple windows open on your computer, and only have the window you need to do the work you have chosen at that particular time.
Once you finish that work, take a short break—move—and when you return to your place of work, start the next item you want to work on. When you get into this practice, you will soon find yourself becoming more focused and more mindful about what you are doing.
5. Close Down Email and Other Forms of Communication
If you really want to become more mindful at work, you need to do whatever it takes to reduce your distractions. This means turning off notifications and only opening your email and other communication tools when you have decided you want to work on your communications.
One thing we need to understand is that if there really was something urgent and that required our attention immediately, nobody would use email or Slack to tell you. They would either walk over to your workstation or phone you. If your house was on fire, your neighbor would not email or Slack message you to tell you. They would use a more immediate form of communication.
The same applies to your work. Stop worrying about angry bosses and upset clients. They are very rare and remember, you are employed to do your work, not to be the fastest at responding to messages and emails. If an issue was genuinely urgent, you would quickly hear about it.
6. Give Yourself Some Alone Time Every Day
The world is very distracting and demanding. If it is not our work colleagues and customers, it is an advertisement and NEWS that are trying to get our attention and cause us to react in positive and negative ways.
With all these distractions, it is very hard to get a moment of peace, and yet, if you want to be better focused, you need some time each day for quiet reflection away from all those demands and noise.
Fifteen to twenty minutes alone in a quiet room—or better yet, in nature—will give you the time to reflect, to turn off, and enjoy the peace around you. Doing this will help you become more aware of what is going on around you and how you are feeling and brings some much-needed perspective to your life.
And when I say “listen,” I mean truly listen. Too often, we are not really listening. Instead, we are thinking of the next thing to say or being judgmental about what the other person is saying. Stop this. It does you no good and is not helpful to the person you are talking with or yourself.
When you stop judging and start listening, you will soon see another perspective. You may not agree with that perspective or opinion, but remember that is all it is—a perspective or opinion. You are not duty-bound to agree with them or change another person’s viewpoint, but you will find yourself better understanding why a person thinks that way if you stop trying to change their opinions and instead, listen to what they have to say.
I know this is hard to do because we naturally want other people to agree with our view of the world. But part of what makes humans so unique is we all have a different view of the world, and that is what makes us special. It would not be a nice world if everyone shared the same view of the world and events.
8. Practice Meditation
Giving yourself some time to meditate each day will help you become more mindful and more focused. Meditation is a form of training for the mind to stop thinking and just be.
Meditating each day does not have to be done for long. I’ve always found ten minutes every day works for me. Others prefer to do two sessions a day fifteen to twenty minutes in the morning and evening.
How long and how frequently you meditate is not relevant. Just doing a few minutes each day will help improve your focus. By training your mind to stop and just focus on your breathing or the sound of the refrigerator,+ you develop a powerful ability to focus.
It can be very difficult to focus on the “always-on” world we live in today. But if you want to perform at your very best and be more mindful at work, be aware of the needs of the people around you, and live a fulfilled, stress-free life.
Becoming more mindful about yourself and others is a great way to become more focused, less stressed, and ultimately, a lot happier.
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