Are You Mindful or Mind Full?
“Wherever you go, there you are” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
Mindfulness at work is about creating an awareness that helps you to accomplish more within a shorter time. It helps you to become more present and attentive which again helps you engage with your team and work at a deeper level.
Mindfulness at work
We have all been there. The phone rings, emails are coming in at such a speed that it is impossible to keep track. A colleague pings you on slack with a “do you have 5 minutes” all while your boss calls you to have a talk. You are processing all the new information while glancing at your to do list and the pile of work on your desk.
The first thought is “Hurrah for multitasking!”.
There is just one hack. You can’t. You might think you can, but in reality, it reduces productivity, increases the risk of making mistakes in practice no one can multitask effectively. Our brain isn’t suited to splitting attention to accomplish two tasks in parallel.
This is where mindfulness plays a role. Learning to become aware of your thoughts and how your mind works will help you to become more focused, efficient and decisive.
“Mindfulness is the ability to know what’s happening in your head at any given moment without getting carried away by it.” – Dan Harris
Mindfulness is a superpower
Practising mindfulness makes you more aware of not only your own thoughts, prejudices and general filters, but also of your surroundings. You become more willing to serve, listen and learn from others while seeking the best solution to a given challenge.
This increased awareness gained thanks to mindfulness practices helps you connect more authentically with other people and your surroundings.
A new leadership skill?
In a digital era, when we are connected almost 24/7 and bombarded with far more opportunities and information than we can possibly digest, there is a tendency for information overload. In most cases it reduces productivity and the skill to keep an overview over important and urgent work, while it can with time also lead to unfortunate behaviour towards colleagues (and family) mainly due to stress and burnout.
In a work environment such consequences are very critical and can have an impact on the organisation as a whole.
Your employees are your companies most valuable asset. With this in mind, just imagine a manager incapable of managing him- or herself having the tendency to micromanage and lash out!
If a manager is unable to focus and prioritise and s/he builds up negative emotions over a period of time, this not only has an impact on his/her own work, decision-making process and wellbeing, but on the entire wellbeing and work of his/her team and the success of the company.
This is why – especially in periods of uncertainty or when undergoing change – it is even more important that the manager masters the ability to calm his/her nervous system, be mindful and present so that s/he can hold meetings in the present moment, listening actively to questions and suggestions, while letting go of previous meetings or controversy with a team member.
In the long run, the mindful connection not only improves productivity, it also creates trust and respect which improves team cohesion as a whole.
Build empathy, understanding and strengthen relationships
Today it is scientifically proven that we can rewire our brain through mindfulness practices which lead to a growth of neurons in areas of the brain linked to learning, memory, awareness and emotional control.
Practicing mindfulness at work is therefore not only important for managers and team leaders. Employees at all levels can profit from practising mindfulness and become more aware of their own thoughts and actions as well as those of their surroundings. In other words, to learn how to deal with the unknown such as imposed change and their reactions towards this.
Many employees express concerns about how to deal with difficult colleagues and bosses. Through mindfulness practices and awareness creation, there are ways of improving the ability to relate to different (or even clashing) personalities, making it easier to respond in a more disciplined and objective way. These skills help to understand a different perspective without taking any offence, gain clarity and work toward solutions to strengthen the long-term relationship.
The 21/90 rule is a popular method when changing habits. It is said that it takes 21 days of practice to build a new habit and then another 90 days to anchor it.
This is why when you start practising mindfulness (at work or at home), you should not expect immediate results. It can seem discouraging when things do not change from one day to the other, but it is the consistent daily practice that makes the change.
Organizations such as Google have implemented mindfulness as part of their wellbeing program to encourage its practice and integration in the workplace culture. Such a permanent wellbeing program improves the general ability to cope with stress, stay motivated and engage with work and colleagues.
Become mindful step by step
Mindfulness is a state of being present in a non-judgemental way. It takes focus away from both the past and the future to direct attention to becoming more aware of emotions, beliefs and actions in the present: now.
When you know what is truly happening within and around you, it makes you more aware and thus more capable of responding with kindness and without judgement.
Starting a mindfulness practice can seem overwhelming and almost exoteric at first glance.
Below you will find four small practices to get started – hopefully developing a taste for a more unbiased and accepting present:
- Active listening
Next time you are in a meeting with colleagues, focus on being present and listen actively to what is being said with the intention of understanding rather than answering.
In the beginning this can seem strange and non-participative. Here it can help to inform your colleague(s) about your practice and then jot down key thoughts on a piece of paper so that you have them for later, but still with the aim of understanding rather than making your point heard.
- Mindful walking
How often do we rush from one place to the other without noticing how we got there or what we passed? Try to walk mindfully next time you have to go to another place – either in the same building or outdoors. Pay attention to your walk: how you take steps and how it feels when you touch the surface. Become aware of the surroundings, the colours and smells and how all those touchpoints with the environment or nature impacts you. Notice these feelings and thoughts without judgement – just let them be and let go.
- Practice gratitude
Practicing gratitude is another way of becoming more present and mindful.
Create a gratitude journal where you each day note down 3 actions/people/things that made you grateful that day and most importantly note why it made you grateful.
Another way is to make it a habit to notice when you feel grateful and express the thank you immediately – in general or to the specific person. Here an added advantage will be a smile back from your colleague which is always worthwhile 🙂
- Body scan meditation
Sit upright with a straight back. Focus deliberately on each part of your body from toe to head or from head to toe. It is important to become aware of any sensations, emotions or thoughts that you associate with each part of your body. Do not ponder on the feeling or thought. Just become aware of it, accept it and let it go. Then move on to the next body part.
Remember the 21/90 rule? It is much easier to remain consistent and become more mindful when you do it together with someone.
At a team level, get colleagues involved. Make a game out of it. Or at a company level, launch a campaign or challenge, implement it in your wellbeing or engagement program or organise a lunch’n’learn on the topic.
How can you convince management? Put the focus on the bottom-line of mindfulness: efficiency 🙂 and always remember:
Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift,
which is why we call it the present. – Bill Keane
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