Paying close attention in any given moment to your thoughts, feelings, and what’s going on in your immediate environment is the key to achieving mindfulness at work. Being intentionally mindful all day, every day is neither realistic nor practical. But when you weave intermittent moments of mindfulness into your day, you can reduce stress and increase productivity by embracing a calmer, more tolerant outlook.
Here are 8 ways to stay mindful at work.
1. Start and End Your Day Right
Avoiding work notifications in favour of focusing on your morning routine will ease you into your day and help establish a sense of calm right out of the gate. At the other end of your schedule, do your best to set and stick to a firm finish time every day.
2. Take Short Breaks
Arranging short breaks throughout your work day helps to refresh the thinking part of your brain (the prefrontal cortex).
Mindfulness breaks may include:
- Standing and stretching
- Grabbing a cup of coffee, or
- Engaging in a 10-minute meditation you can do at your desk
You won’t just feel more productive after tuning in to your work break activity, you’ll be more capable of seeing situations in a new way.
3. Breathe with Intention
A sixty-second focus on deep breathing invokes a relaxation response that will help you feel grounded. Shallow breathing, which we often do without thinking, can cause shortness of breath and anxiety. Expanding the diaphragm fully and mindfully with every breath, meanwhile, gets more oxygen to more of your lungs, immediately easing your mood.
4. Manage Distractions
Workplace distractions like your email inbox are a constant challenge to staying mindful at work.
To manage them better, try applying the ABC system:
- Address your options in terms of either stopping and dealing with or ignoring interruptions
- Breathe deeply while you consider your decision
- Choose and apply your response mindfully
This simple strategy will help keep distractions from hijacking your focus involuntarily.
5. Stop for Lunch
The long-lost lunch break is especially important for keeping both you and your employees de-stressed and re-charged. Eating somewhere other than your desk lets your brain disconnect from work temporarily. Resisting the urge to rush – and being mindful of others and your environment while you eat – will also help keep you from crashing later on.
6. Say No to Multitasking
Sacrificing mindfulness for multitasking may feel like a productivity jumpstart, but it’s not. Trying to juggle two or more chores at the same time, in fact, only makes you:
- More prone to mistakes
- More likely to miss important cues, and
- Less likely to retain information
Multitasking also makes you less efficient from a problem-solving perspective, which can be a circular route back to stress.
7. Shift Focus Fully
Shifting your focus fully every time you apply yourself to a new problem or duty is essential for staying mindful at work. To shift gears without leaving any residual attention behind, send a clear signal to your brain by combining a physical break, like a walk down the hall, with a brief change of scene.
8. Practice Active Listening
Active listening is a perfect example of mindfulness in action. You can put it to work by:
- Giving the person you’re speaking with your full attention
- Making an effort to fully understand the information they’re sharing, and
- Responding thoughtfully
Not only does active listening keep you in the moment, it’s a proven way to mitigate miscommunication and poor-quality results in the workplace.
Like any other skill, staying mindful at work only becomes habit through practice. While research suggests it takes an average of 66 days for any new behavior to become automatic, the return on that investment could include personal and professional wellbeing for life.