Mindfulness is an incredibly powerful tool to help you stay present and enjoy the moment whilst reducing stress and anxiety.
But when you’re at work, with the constant barrage of emails, notifications, meetings, phone calls and distractions, it can be hard to find that peace of mind.
But at work is where we need it most.
So how can you use mindfulness at work, without it just adding another thing to your bloated to do list?
First of all, we need to understand what mindfulness really is:
- a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
As you can see, so much of mindfulness is about presence and taking a few moments to be in the now or focusing singularly on the task or moment in hand.
And second to that, mindfulness is about acceptance. Accepting what is, and not trying to change it or worrying about it. The simple (but sometimes difficult) act of acknowledging a situation, feeling or thought without ‘doing’ anything about it.
In order to cultivate acceptance and focus and therefore mindfulness at work, there are two approaches that have worked incredibly well for me:
Focus your environment
The first step is to make it easier for yourself to focus and avoid distractions, and a great place to start is with your working environment. If you’ve something you know you need to give your complete attention to, follow these steps before starting:
Start by decluttering your desk. Clear your working area from piles of paper and used coffee cups and have only the essentials at hand for whatever task you wish to focus on.
Then, move on to decreasing your notifications. Turn off your email alerts, social media notifications, even your phone. Put it on silent so you’ve no excuse to “just check Facebook”.
Next is to block out your calendar and give the task in hand dedicated time. This works really well if it stops colleagues scheduling in a last minute meeting and will help you make room for it. Even if it’s giving the task 30 minute chunks over the course of a day or week, the discipline of carving time out will allow you to give it attention.
Finally, aim to do one thing. Just do the one thing you have to do right now and nothing more. Only once that thing is done, do you move on to the next action. This method of working is linked to increased productivity and concentration and is tied closely to the ethos of mindfulness. You’ll have a greater sense of achievement and likely do better work.
Practice easy mindfulness exercises often
If focus isn’t so much the issue for you, but rather worrisome thoughts, stress or overwhelm, then using one of these easy and simple mindfulness exercises throughout your working day will bring you back to a state of awareness and “nowness” that has a hugely positive impact on your state of mind.
Colour and texture exercise
Pick a colour and find six things in your immediate environment that are that colour. Notice the shade and hue of each thing. Notice the texture of each thing. Then, choose another colour and repeat. This simple exercise brings your focus to the now.
Breath in time with this GIF
Follow the GIF below and breath in sync with it. Breath in as the shape grows, and out as it decreases. Do this for 60 seconds to come back to a state of presence.
Thank your worrisome thoughts
When something is bothering you or you’ve a worry on your mind, take a moment and thank it. Say “thank you” in your head and welcome it to be there. Pushing worries away makes them bigger in our minds. Acceptance is incredibly freeing.
Notice the process
When you stop for a coffee break and go and put the kettle on, notice every single step of the process as you do it. Notice how much water you fill the kettle with, notice the smell of the coffee, Notice the sound of the milk being poured. You can do this with any activity, just by acknowledging each step of the process.
I hope these suggestions help you find a little piece of mindfulness at work and throughout your day. Just pick one thing that resonates with you and try it, and see if you’re able to accept and focus on the now a little more. Over time, this will lead to improved mood, reduced anxiety and stress and a happier you.
Jen Smith coaches entrepreneurs in social media.