Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present. It’s the awareness that you have about yourself and the environment around you. It’s being able to know where you are, what you are doing and stop yourself from overly reacting to a particular situation. Mindfulness is having the ability to be completely aware of your own thoughts, mental process, emotions or different experiences on moment to moment basis.
This being said, to be able to be mindful at work can be quite challenging. You can easily get busy with phone calls, emails, meetings, and on top of everything else your own work. You might wonder how one can apply the principles of being mindful so that you feel more active and productive.
Here are 8 ways you can be more mindful at work:
1. Consciousness/awareness of being present
When you are aware of your surroundings at work, there are two main aspects you are going through in the moment to moment basis – one is about what is going on around you and the other is what is going on within you. You should be able to be consciously present at work while managing your mental and emotional state/process. When you are busy with a certain task and need to give your full attention to it but somehow end up thinking about something else, try to bring your focus back to the present by reminding yourself what is important to focus on. It might sound simple but many find it hard to do. Here are some tips:
- Set clear goals: Start your day at work by noting down your intentions and goals
- Keep reminding yourself of why this goal/task needs to get done and how it will benefit you
- Keep a track of your thoughts instead of losing your train of thoughts
- Try to be more mindful during your mundane tasks such as opening doors or washing your hands. These small steps will add up in training your brain to be more mindful during your important tasks
2. Practice brief mindfulness exercises
There are various mindfulness exercises that you can take part in. It helps to train your brain to be more conscious and aware. During your time at work, it might be hard to find the time for a mindfulness exercise. Don’t worry, mindful exercises can be as short as you want them to be. Even a couple of minutes can be used to connect to your senses and help you concentrate. Try to be creative in finding time during your busy day, especially during excessive stress or pressure at work. Practicing mindfulness exercises will allow you to rebalance your nervous system, tone down the stress part of your brain and allow you to engage with the wise part of your brain. This process can lead you to making better decisions at work instead of reacting blindly to situation.
3. Do one task at a time
Trying to focus to do one task at a time is the way to go to be more mindful and efficient. Multi-tasking is actually not as effective as people would think. In reality, it’s just your brain switching from one task to another, making it hard to finish one task to its completion stage and often losing the data in the process. Here are a few tips on how you can be mindful by doing one task at a time and lose the multi-tasking habit:
- Time management journal: Note down what you have achieved while doing one task at a time and while multi-tasking. This will allow you to see for yourself how effective and mindful you were while doing a single task vs. while multi-tasking
- Group task in one category: Try to do all the common tasks such as replying to emails, phone calls and running errands in one block of time. This will allow you to accomplish all these tasks on one set time instead of multi-tasking these tasks throughout the day
- Stay away from distractions: Keep your phone on silent, log off from your email account and social media accounts. Try to focus on doing a task single handedly by setting a timer for the amount of time you need to work. Then record how much work you managed to get done. Remember everyone’s productivity level is different. While one can work for hours nonstop, others need frequent breaks, so do what you feel is best for you and your productivity. Don’t forget to practice mindfulness exercises during breaks.
4. Practice the act of gratitude
We as humans have the tendency to produce negative thoughts which is known as the ‘negative bias’. This means you are more likely to focus on the negative aspects of life instead of looking at what is going well for you. When you behave this way every day, you ultimately adopt an excessive way of thinking negatively which can lead to an unbalanced way of thinking. Practicing gratitude is the antidote.
When you practice the act of gratitude, you automatically feel better leaving a positive impact on yourself, health, relationships and quality of work. If there is a particular thing that is upsetting you, try practicing gratitude and remind yourself of all the other good things currently happening in your life. This practice will allow you to shift your negative thoughts into positive ones.
Thus the act of gratitude is you being mindful of what is going great in your life. Instead of allowing your mind into anxious thoughts or dip you into low moods, you can feed your mind with thoughts of gratitude which can raise your overall well-being. Your positive mental state will allow you to make better work decisions as well.
5. Develop humility
Practicing humility can only allow you to achieve greatness. Humble people have the quality of being confident without feeling the need to brag about their achievements. It doesn’t mean you see yourself as inferior, it rather means being aware of your natural surroundings and equity with everyone around you.
Humility is linked to mindfulness as it is about accepting you for who you are, and being open to listening to and learning from others.
In order to develop more humility in your life, try the following tips:
- Consider all those people who have helped you reach this stage. It might be your parents, guardians or even your teachers/mentors. Allow yourself to identify just how many people have helped you throughout and left an impact on your life
- Demonstrate appreciation: When someone helps you in whatever way, practice showing appreciation. It might sound obvious but at times we tend to take things for granted. Helping each other is what counts and makes a big difference in each other’s life.
- Value other’s opinions: There are times when people are trying to make a point that challenges your own opinion. You can either jump in and start arguing in order to show that you are right or you can take a mindful non-judgmental approach to share a conversation based on curiosity and respect
6. Adopt a growth mindset
Some people have a fixed mindset and believe that their basic qualities of intelligence and talents are enough for them to grow and lead them to success. People with a growth mindset believe that they can grow and improve their intelligence with effort. By working on themselves, they think they can do better in various aspects. They see their talent as an initial point and build on it by hard work and determination. People who have such mindsets love to learn on a continuous basis and showcase greater act of resilience. Therefore, success at work depends on having a growth mindset.
Mindfulness is all about adopting a growth mindset. It is about giving your full attention to the current moment and not judging your innate talent and intelligence. It is allowing yourself to be open to new challenges and experiences. When you adopt a growth mindset at work, you accept the negative feedback you get and look into how you can improve yourself. You don’t mind taking on more responsibilities, because you are curious to learn new things. You accept all these new challenges only to allow yourself to excel. That’s the actual essence of mindfulness at work – believing you can grow with experience, accept challenges, live in the present and discover new things about yourself and others around you.
7. Accept the reality and what you cannot change
When practicing mindfulness, acceptance lies at the heart of it. Accepting the present moment is the right way to be mindful about it. And this also means to accept yourself for who you are. It’s a way of acknowledging the reality of how things are at the moment before trying to change anything.
For example at work, you may have made the mistake to miss an important step to an instruction that was given to you by your boss. Now this is a fact and has already happened. The sooner you accept this fact the sooner you can move forward to deal with the situation and come up with a solution. Lack of acceptance will only lead you to denial, poor relationships with your colleagues or avoidance of your boss. Instead, you can accept the situation, talk to the people who can help you make the necessary amendments, learn from your mistakes and move on. Acceptance allows you to make the changes required in order for you to grow.
Furthermore, self-acceptance is even more important and powerful. Accepting yourself for all that you are including your weaknesses and shortcomings will allow you to cut down on the mentally energy draining self-criticism. By accepting yourself, you have a clear mind that allows you to work on those parts of yourself you wish to improve and grow. Hence, the starting point of personal development is self-acceptance.
8. Treat stress in a positive manner
Everybody deals with stress differently. It is something we have to go through and deal with as a human reaction. But stress doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. As long as we deal with it in a positive manner, we can then use it as an energizer to overcome the challenges ahead.
When you view your stress response in this context, you will be able to see your problems or situation as positive challenge. This small change can help you improve your achievements and productivity at your workplace.
Mindfulness is a powerful tool that will help you thrive in different areas of your life. It will help you to live your life to its full potential and enable you to focus your attention where you choose to while realizing you have the option to make decisions in every moment.
Author: Farheen Jeelani – Associate Consultant at MomentuM Coaching & Consulting