Most employees know how easy it is to get caught up in the daily stresses of the job; phone calls, emails, meetings, deadlines, presentations, and even coworkers. It’s inevitable that day-to-day tasks somehow affect our mental and emotional state, but it’s how we handle these stresses that make us more successful, and dare I say it, happy in the workplace.
Everyone deals with stress differently. Trying to relax and find peace, some meditate, practice yoga, take hot baths, or have a glass of wine (guilty!). But what about something that will help to calm you down in a stressful moment, say, in the office? Adding a little mindfulness to your workday could be just what the doctor ordered.
But what does it mean to be mindful?
How often do you find yourself running on autopilot, not focusing on the task in front of you, but instead thinking about other things that need to be addressed? Well, you’re not alone. Research shows we spend 47% of our waking hours “thinking about what isn’t going on.”
Mindfulness is all about awareness and focus; to focus on what is important and to maintain awareness of what is simply noise distracting us from the task. It doesn’t mean we have to slow down. Simply said, we must enhance attention and mindfulness in both work and life. It’s about letting go of the distractions and having a clear state of mind so we can keep track of individual and organizational goals.
Multi-tasking is damaging your concentration.
For a long time now, multi-tasking has been seen as the way to get more done faster. Recently, however, research has been proving this to be all wrong. Multi-tasking is problematic. It forces us to focus on several tasks at once, trying to complete them as quickly as possible, sacrificing the quality of execution. Staying focused on one thing at a time allows us to actually complete a task with the proper attention it needs to get a job done the right way, with fewer mistakes.
These days, paying attention is a skill just as useful as technical or management skills. The same research also states that it’s actually impossible to do two things at once (have a phone conversation and write an email at the same time, for example). Your mind has to constantly switch back and forth from one task to another. If there is a task at hand that needs to be addressed, spreading the focus around to other things won’t work, and can actually be damaging to your mental health, not to mention your productivity.
What can we do to be more mindful at work?
I know the feeling… a long to-do list and not enough time in the day to get it all done. We are sometimes pulled in too many directions creating more harm than accomplishment. Slowing down is not counterproductive, it can be essential. There are a few realistic steps we can all take to regain focus and lower our blood pressure:
- Take a step back once in a while to draw awareness to how you are. Are you being understanding? Irrational? Are you on autopilot? Hone in on what’s really happening and adjust accordingly.
- Be a single-tasker. If multitasking is so inefficient, why are we still doing it? Try to be aware of what you’re accomplishing in a certain block of time. Are you focusing on one goal to achieve, or do you find yourself doing multiple tasks at once? Remember to tackle one goal at a time.
- Just like anything else going on in our busy lives, we often forget to be mindful. It’s OK if you’re brain seems constantly lost in its own thoughts. Try setting reminders throughout the day, keeping a note on your desk, or associating certain activities with mindfulness.
- Slow down. Way too often we are full speed ahead, which means our mental and emotion presence takes a back seat to what lies in front of us. Being in a rush leads to sloppy work and, in some cases, bad decisions. Effective leaders and workers slow down to reflect on how to make the best decisions and actions.
- Think positive. This is a hard one for a lot of us (guilty again!). If you find yourself in a moment of stress or alarm, take a second to focus on something positive in that situation. What are you grateful for right now? How can this be a good thing, even though it’s causing stress?
The most important thing to remember, in my opinion, is to learn that we have to accept what we cannot change. To be mindful means to accept the present moment just as it is and to accept yourself as you are. When change happens in life, it offers an opportunity to reflect. So accept those stressful moments, talk to the right people, learn from your mistakes, and don’t take it out on yourself. Because after all, the most important relationship you have is the one with yourself.