Mindfulness at work sounds like a great idea, but how do you become more mindful in the midst of all of the phone calls, emails, meetings and more in your busy work day?
A number of well-known companies have successfully implemented mindfulness programs for their employees, including Apple, Google and Procter & Gamble. General Mills has begun research into the impact of its mindfulness program for its employees, and the results are noteworthy.
Eighty-three percent of participants said they were “taking time each day to optimize my personal productivity” — up from 23% before the program. Eighty-two percent said they now make time to eliminate tasks with limited productivity value — up from 32% before the program. And among senior executives who took the course, 80% reported a positive change in their ability to make better decisions, while 89% said they became better listeners.
When you’re consciously present at work, you’re aware of both what’s going on around you and what’s going on within you. To be mindful at work means to be consciously present in what you’re doing while you’re doing it, as well as managing your mental and emotional state and response to what is happening around you.
And when the pressure is on and the stakes are high, practicing a short mindfulness exercise can make all the difference.
For example, notice your breath as it flows in and out through the nostrils. In, out. In, out. Mindfulness helps to rebalance your nervous system, toning down the fight-or-flight response and engaging the wise part of your brain, so that you make rational decisions rather than going with your default autopilot response.
Here are some simple ways to bring mindfulness to your day.
Begin with mindfulness: Before entering the workplace, set an intention to be as present as you can be. Research undertaken at Harvard University showed that 47% of a person’s day can be spent lost in thoughts. Being lost in your thoughts and on autopilot means you’re not fully present and, therefore, unable to be calm, creative and in your wise-mind.
Be a uni-tasker: Multitasking decreases productivity. By choosing one task at a time, you allow yourself to be fully present with that task. Pause between tasks to be sure you are fully present before undertaking the next task.
Set mindful reminders: Use a watch, phone or computer to set reminders to pause during your day to practice mindfulness. Focusing on your breath for as little as 60 seconds, leaving your desk for a quick change of scenery, stepping outside for a breath of fresh air all can snap you back to the present moment and prepare you for the next task at hand.
Slow down to speed up: Notice when your body is responding to stress during the work day, feeling your heart rate speed up and your breath quicken. Recognize this as your body’s way of energizing you for the task at hand, and simply observe your body’s natural responses. Now pause and practice anchoring on your breath to slow down before moving forward. In, out. In, out. Taking this pause will give you the opportunity to view the upcoming challenge in a more positive, healthy way.
Practice gratitude: Acceptance of how things are in the present moment, and acceptance of yourself just as you are, allows space for gratitude for what is and recognition of what you would like to change.
Have a growth mindset: Believing that you can improve and grow with experience, moving toward challenges rather than away from them, mindfully living in the present moment and being open to discovering new things about yourself will allow you space for growth and development.
Review your day: Before leaving the office, reflect on all that has happened that day. Be mindful of how this day has impacted you, and how you might have impacted others. Allow yourself time for learning from feedback and mistakes, and mentally prepare for the transition out of the office. Leave work at work.
End your day with mindfulness. Journal, read, listen to a mindfulness meditation. Spending a few moments in mindfulness at the end of the day can improve sleep, giving you renewed energy to begin again tomorrow.