Mindfulness at the Workplace
Enjoy Janine’s 10 minute blog on how to be mindful at work that will turn any high pressure work weeks into calm, purposeful and positive ones.
The benefits of mindfulness are well known as enablers of a healthy, happy life. You may think that Mindfulness sounds good in theory when you are in the quiet sanctuary of your own home but is difficult in practice in the context of a busy working week?
Often there are so many things that seek your attention – meetings, endless emails, colleagues, presentations and work deadline. So how can you apply the principles of mindfulness so you can reach all your goals with speed and ease, feeling energised, happy and stress free?
Here are 7 simple ways to be mindful at work.
1. Be Intently Present
Mindfulness is being aware of where you attention is. When you are aware of where your attention is, that is where you can direct your energy. You are in the moment, connected to the present and you are doing things with intention and purpose. This helps manage your mental and emotional health so your overall feeling of wellbeing is enhanced.
Every time something competes for your attention and you find your mind wandering to Karen’s new project or Bob’s terrible joke this morning, recognise and observe the thoughts and bring your attention back to the task at hand.
- Create intent at the start of your day to give presence your best shot. Pause for a few moments before you step foot into the office to set this intention in your mind.
2. Be a Super Single-Tasker!
Super Single-tasking is doing one thing at a time, and one thing only! Yes, you read that right! We have been programmed to believe that multi tasking is the best way to reach success and is one of the habits of successful people. The truth is, nobody can actually multi-task and this idea that you are more efficient doing more than one thing at a time or bouncing from one task to another isn’t true.
In reality, your brain is haemorrhaging energy, madly switching from one thing to the next, often losing data, energy and harmony in the process. The human brain finds it very difficult to do more than one task at a time and actually slows down when you are moving from one thing to another. It’s also the source of great stress trying to remember everything like you are juggling balls in the air that gets heavier and more complex as the day goes on.
People try to multi task in an attempt to get more done in the same amount of time but it ends up costing them time, increased stress, and lower standard of work.
If multi-tasking is so inefficient, why do people still do it? A study by Zheng Wang at Ohio State University studied students multi tasking and found that when they multi-tasked, it made them feel more productive, even though in reality they were being unproductive. Other studies found that the more you multitask, the more addicted you get to it.
Another study, this time by University of London also showed that multitasking didn’t work. It proved that by multi tasking it decreases your effectiveness, productivity and can also reduce your IQ if done over a sustained period of time. This finding had me at IQ! The horror of decreasing our IQ by doing something that becomes addictive and actually diminishes our success seems crazy right?!
If like many of us, you have developed this multi tasking habit, don’t worry, here are some ways to help you become a super single tasker and avoid the multi tasking trap!
- Concentrate on one task at a time
- Minimise your phone usage and switch it off and put it away for challenging tasks where you seek distractions.
- Have maximum 3 tabs open on your computer
- Turn off email and social media alerts
- Only read your emails when you have time to respond
3. Be Grateful
As we spoke about on our last Mindfulness Coaching Call, we are programmed with a negativity bias. This means that things we perceive as bad or painful are much more likely to sink in – we tend to focus and dwell on something that’s gone wrong and re – live it vs celebrating the things that have gone great. Imagine what that means over time if we continue doing this, unaware. We develop a negative and unbalanced way of thinking about things.
Don’t worry if this may sound gloomy – there is an answer. Gratitude is the antidote! By activating your gratitude muscle, makes you feel better and has a positive impact on your creativity, health, working relationships, and quality of work.
If you feel like you’re perhaps in a job you don’t enjoy, the first step is to practice gratitude. There are always things to feel positive about if you only seek these. By focussing on them, you will default to the positive vs the negative and reduce the feelings of being stuck or overwhelmed. Ask yourself, what’s going well in my job? Perhaps you are paid well, or you work with a friend or it’s close to home? Maybe through this challenging role you’ve figured out not only what you don’t want in a role or a boss, but what you do want. It’s given you clarity and certainty. What a gift! After practicing gratitude, you can then consider whether you want to continue in that role or need to find another job and because you are approaching this in a positive way, the thought of change won’t overwhelm you.
At the end of the day, people hire positive people, and like attracts like. By activating your gratitude muscle you neutralise your brain’s natural negativity bias and start noticing all the good around you. This in turn makes you feel connected, positive and happy.
4. Adopt a Growth Mindset
We spoke about this a lot in our 6 week course Escape Haven @ Home ,our 6 week online Bali retreat programme, and explored the two mindsets and traits of each. According to Carol Dweck and her team at Stanford University researcher, people essentially adhere to one of two mindsets – a growth or a fixed mindset.
People with a fixed mindset believe that their basic qualities, such as their intelligence and talents, are fixed traits. Instead of developing their intelligence and talents, they spend their time hoping their traits will lead to success. They don’t seek to develop themselves, because they think that talent alone leads to success. They turn out to be wrong—brain science has proved otherwise.
People with a growth mindset believe that with effort, anythings possible. They can improve their intelligence and talents and enjoy self development. They see brains and talent as just the starting point, and build on them with effort, self development hard work and determination.
Brain scans have actually revealed that effort does lead to growth in intelligence and talent over time. People with this mindset have a love of learning and demonstrate greater resilience. Success at work depends on having a growth mindset.
Mindfulness is about adopting a growth mindset. Mindfulness is about giving attention to the present moment and not judging your innate talent or intelligence, but being open to new possibilities. When you adopt a growth mindset at work, you don’t mind getting negative feedback as you view it as a chance to discover something new. You don’t mind taking on new responsibilities because you’re curious about how you’ll cope. You expect and move towards challenges, seeing them as opportunities for inner growth. That’s the essence of mindfulness at work—believing that you can improve and grow with experience, moving towards challenges, living in the moment, and discovering new things about yourself and others.
5. Slow Down To Speed Up
Mindfulness at work does seem counter-intuitive. You’re considering the fact that, by stopping or slowing the pace you become more efficient, happy, resilient, positive and productive at work. You may not believe that’s possible.
We know this to be true when we look at something restorative like sleep. Without it we know we are less productive. We’ve all experienced that over time right? As a mum, it was very difficult for me to deliver things I needed to with a new born waking through the night and disturbing my sleep. You need to sleep at least seven hours every night to be able to function effectively.
So rest can increase efficiency. If you do manage to get about seven hours of sleep and achieve a certain amount of work, imagine what would happen if you also did a few mini-mindfulness exercises during the day? Your brain would become even more efficient, focused, effective at communicating with others, and better at learning new skills. If you can reframe mindfulness as your X factor, your productivity hack, wouldn’t that be a great motivator to do these exercises?
Sure, we can all multi task, we’ve been trained and rewarded for doing it for a long time. It’s even something we proudly wear as part of our gender traits – women multi tasking but being in a panicky rush leads to bad decisions and drains our energy. There is an easier way. To take a pause, focus on listening, stroll rather than run, and generally take your time when at work. Mindfulness is lauded as being a competitive edge by many Billionaires, Fortune 500 CEO’s and Elite Athletes for a reason—they slow down to speed up. That’s a mindful way of working and it will help you achieve better results feeling great in the process.
6. Practice Short Mindful Exercises at Work
Train your mindfulness muscle! Mindful exercises train your brain to be more mindful. The more mindful exercises you do, the easier your brain finds it to drop into a mindful state, thus optimising your brain function. They don’t have to be long and can be as short as you wish.
Even one minute of mindfully focussing on your breath or one of your senses is a great presence exercise. It’s easy to do this anywhere at work as despite what you may think, these exercises don’t require a yoga mat or bolster – you don’t need to close your eyes or even be sitting down. At times of heavy pressure at work, practicing a short mindfulness exercise can be a game changer.
By doing this, it will be your saviour on those days that have turned into a bit of chaos. It helps to rebalance your nervous system, diminishing the fight-or-flight response and activating the wise part of your brain. By doing this, you make reasoned decisions rather than automatically reacting to situations.
7. Breathing Exercises
It’s entirely possible to feel great creativity, connected focus and crystal clarity during your busy work day. One of the simplest ways it taking a few deep breaths. In fact, research published in the Journal of Neurophysiology reveals that deep breathing can actually change the way your mind functions, actually allowing you to activate new parts of your brain.
Just stopping and focussing on your breath is one of the most powerful mindful practices there is. There are so many different breathing exercises that you can learn and incorporate into your everyday, here is my favourite and its super simple and short so easy to incorporate into your working day.
This is my favourite breathing exercise and due to its simplicity, means you can easily incorporate it into a working day. The basic premise of this exercise is that your exhale is double the length of your inhale. Your breaths can be as long or short as you can tolerate. I inhale for 4 and exhale for 8 seconds. Our out breath is related to the parasympathetic nervous system often referred to the rest and digest (as opposed to fight or flight). This exercise is great for anxiety and stress. I can recommend doing this before giving a presentation or having a difficult meeting.
If you are interested in Breathwork, look out for a series of Breathwork exercises we will be releasing in the next module.
Hope you have enjoyed my blog and found a few practical take aways that you can apply in your working day. Please let us know any questions you have and how you go with these.
My hope is this is a game changer for you and you create that calmness in whatever chaos you experience in your working week.