Career Advice Tips to be more productive

Practical and Effective Ways to Bring Mindfulness to Your Work

Most work environments are lessons on the opposite of mindfulness. Amidst deadlines, procedural changes, and the constant distraction from others, we can easily feel frenetic and overwhelmed in the office. We teach ourselves to multitask in order to manage everything we’re expected to juggle on a daily basis. Yet this jumping between tasks and thought streams creates extra drain on the brain, depleting the very fuel we need to focus on tasks. Dr. Daniel Levitin, professor of behavioural neuroscience at Montreal’s McGill University explains that the switching between tasks “ends up making us feel tired much more quickly than if we sustain attention on one thing.” This is where mindfulness at work can come in handy.

When your computer or phone gets clunky and slow or starts acting erratically, an initial remedy is to turn it off, wait 10 seconds, and then turn it back on. Just as your computer needs a reboot and a refresh, so do humans! Mindfulness is about heightened awareness. Mindfulness means pausing and placing full attention in a given moment (or moments) to what is going on inside and outside of you without getting swept up in it and without judgement of your thoughts or emotions. Mindfulness means taking a pause to step back from the the hecticness of daily work and observe what is going on.

Some ways you can incorporate mindfulness into your work include: 

Frame your day to be mindful. When you first wake up in the morning, sit up, put your feet on the floor, take a deep breath, and set your intention about how you want the day to go and how you plan to navigate challenges. Create a mantra you can repeat throughout the workday as a mindful reminder. “Today I will learn one new thing” or “today I will focus on kind treatment of others.” Use this to help create the mind space for your day. 

Focus on your breath. Because your breath is always with you, it is the easiest tool for a mindfulness pause. Regroup by stopping and observe the air going in through your nostrils and follow it to your chest or your belly. Notice the air exit out of your body. Really observe the intricacy of it and count “in 1, out 2” to keep your focus from wandering. Breath focus is a tool you can use to take a mental break without others around you even knowing.  

Make your commute mindful. Decide that your drive in will set the tone for your workday. Try to notice at least one thing that brings a smile to your face or gives you a sense of calm or appreciation (the sun shining, a kind driver, a green light, the lack of a traffic accident). If your mind wanders to other thoughts, gently bring it back and challenge yourself to focus attention on what you are choosing to observe.

Set a mindfulness alarm on your phone or computer. Create a reminder to pause at intervals throughout the day. When the reminder goes off, take 10 slow, deep breaths in and out. Focus on relaxing your shoulders and releasing tension anywhere you can feel it in your body. Most people spend nearly 47% of their time on autopilot thinking about things other than 
what they are actually doing. The more you practise focusing your attention on one thing at a time, the more your brain gets trained to do that with ease throughout the day. 

Walk mindfully. When you walk down the hall to speak with a co-worker, get a drink refill, or use the bathroom, do it with intention. Focus on the feel of your feet in your shoes, your muscles in your calves, your joints in your knees. Walk without your phone. When you notice thoughts wandering to your mental tasklist, bring your attention back to your body and the act of walking. The goal with workplace mindfulness is to take an intentional break from the over-processing you do all throughout the day that over-taxes your operating system. 

Email mindfully. Use your overflowing email box to practise mindful awareness. Before opening an email, take a breath in and say to yourself“may I assume the best intent” or “I’m grateful for this communication.” Exhale and read the message. Before responding, tell yourself “I’m grateful for the convenience of email” or “may they assume the best intent.” Not only is this practise a way to strategically focus your attention on the act of emailing, it has a secondary benefit of calming your emotion in the process. It’s great for voicemails and phone calls too!

Mindfulness practice may seem like a buzz word or current fad, but it the results speak for themselves. Exercise was a fad too until research showed its immense benefit on overall health and wellness. Start small with a mindfulness effort at work however you can for just one week and notice the benefits to your brain functioning and focus.