Like many of us, I work a full time, Monday - Friday job. There are days when I feel completely on top of things; productive, energetic, positive and creative. But some days it's a struggle to stay focused. Between phone calls, texts, lists, drop-in meetings, incoming emails and competing priorities, a whole day of work can pass by without my actually accomplishing what I meant to. Sometimes I start the day with the very best intentions, but just cant muster up the creativity that I need to do my best work.
Well surprise, surprise. When practicing mindfulness regularly (which I admit, I currently am not), I feel much better about my work - more energetic, creative and purposeful. The compassion exercises help me communicate more effectively with colleagues. The focus on my mind and attention allows me to stay on task and therefore complete tasks. Mindfulness practice teaches you to observe and allow unpleasant emotions and find effective ways of managing them, which ends up being helpful in every aspect of life, not least of which being work. My mind "shuts off" at night, allowing me beautiful 8+ hour sleeps that propel me through the next day.
I'm hoping this weekend will kick me back into my good habits! But in addition to (or instead of) a regular mindfulness practice, there are a few ways you can generally increase your mindfulness at work.
How to Work Mindfully
1. Hourly breathing. If you're not in the habit of doing a daily meditation, try doing 30-60 seconds of mindfulness every hour. It's a nice way to continually "start fresh" throughout the day. I installed the "bell of mindfulness" Chrome add-on which rings a bell every hour reminding me to be mindful of my body and take some deep breaths. Click here for a Chrome add-on, or here for the Firefox version.
2. One thing at a time. You probably have heard by now that multitasking doesn't work. Okay sure we can all sing while we wash the dishes, and many of us (especially women) are skilled at writing an e-mail while talking on the phone, but that doesn't mean we should. Priorities your activities to ensure you are 100% focused on each task you commit to. Keep the number of windows and tabs that you have open to a minimum. Keep emails in your drafts and websites in your favorites folder rather than out there in front of your face. Try to do one thing at a time.
3. Change it up. Sometimes we go back and forth between tasks because we don't have the right solution to the problem or the right words to start the email you're trying to write. Try changing your environment from time to time throughout the day. Step outside for a moment to take a few deep breaths - it's surprising how often this will readjust your creative juices.
4. Stand. Breaking news - sitting on our bums for hours on end isn't doing us any favors. I don't have a standing desk (yet) but I try to intersperse my day with conversations with colleagues and phone calls I can have while standing. There has been a lot of research behind the benefits of standing while working. Standing desks can be insanely expensive but I love the looks of the new StorkStand, a mobile standing desk (it attaches to your desk chair!) for under $200 that just got funded on Kickstarter. I can't wait to try one out.
5. Plan ahead. Do you live by your Outlook/iCal/Google calendar like I do? Well then use it! Schedule a recurring 10-minute "meeting" with yourself to take a break and be mindful. Assess your current state of mind, meditate on your body or your breath, and enjoy some "me" time.