Maintaining mindfulness in one’s day-to-day life is not a simple task. It may seem so, however, with every wellness guru out there throwing the term around as if it’s as easy as breathing.
(Let’s not discount the literal benefits breathing, but I’ll get to that later.)
When you work in a hectic environment, whether that be in an office setting, a customer-focused space, or even just on your own, it can become even harder to maintain a mindset of awareness, calm, and ease.
I am quite an anxious person sometimes, and this takes a toll on me whenever I’m in a position where others expect things of me (which, for most of us, would be in any work situation). It’s easy to put so much pressure on yourself to maintain a certain status or reputation in the eyes of your boss or coworkers that your mindfulness goes out the window as franticness takes hold.
1. One way to combat little anxieties that crop up over the course of the work day is to have a clear direction for how you want that day to go. Make a list of tasks and goals. I even like to separate the list into columns for tasks that take priority versus ones that I can be a bit more flexible with.
(If you can, try to do this before jumping on your email or social platforms. Sure, doing so might be inevitable, but starting the day with some non-digital journaling time is likely to keep you more focused and present from there on out.)
2. If you have the time, take a moment or two to reflect on each of your tasks to determine what fears or concerns are standing in the way of you getting it done, what would happen if the item at hand doesn’t get done in time or meet your standards, and which ones are the most important to you personally and on a larger level. While this may not affect your actual productivity, it will help you remain mindful of each job as you cross it off your list and help keep you on track.
3. As you go down your list, be conscious of working on one thing at a time. I know firsthand how difficult this can be– I love jumping around from job to job, having a million tabs open on my computer at once, distracting myself from what I should be focusing on at any given moment. But distraction is the enemy of mindfulness. Multitasking may make you feel more productive, but it actually decreases productivity (and ultimately, the quality of your work).
4. When you feel you need to, take breaks (to stretch, eat, drink, take a walk, etc.) These are the times to distract yourself, within reason. Even when engaging in the “distraction,” however, try to stay mindful. Why not just eat your lunch in silence and focus on the taste and texture and smell of the food, rather than staying at your desk to work or browsing Instagram at the same time? When you practice mindfulness in other areas of your life, you are likely to bring it back with you into your work.
5. Mindfulness does not just mean doing one thing at a time, however. You can do this and not be embracing the practice at all. Mindfulness requires attentiveness, so prioritize this in all that you do. If you take public transportation to work, take out the headphones and pull out a notebook. Take note of the things around you– the people on the train, the noise in the background, your view out the window.
6. Once you get to your workplace, you can still practice active attentiveness without seeming like the office weirdo. On your break, play a mindfulness game or do an exercise such as closing your eyes for a minute and counting the length of your in/out breaths. There are several apps and websites that provide mindfulness activities right at your fingertips. However, I value the limitation of technology– especially if you work in a tech-related field. So, while the digital exercises may be convenient to use on occasion, try to develop some other mindfulness methods such as breath work, outdoor activity, drawing or even card/puzzle games.
7. Remind yourself of your worth and achievements. It can be so easy to get down on yourself if anything goes wrong at work and completely fall off the mindfulness bandwagon. One minute, you are going about your tasks peacefully and the next, you are overridden with anxiety about a failed task, missed email, poorly planned meeting, or whatever else your situation may bring.
Whether the pressure you experience is sourced from yourself or others, it’s important to pause, pat yourself on the back for the good work that you’ve done, and remind yourself that in the grand scheme of things, your mistake is probably not the end of the world. As crucial as a present-focused approach to mindfulness can be, it’s also beneficial to sometimes remove yourself from such an intense attachment to the present so you don’t get too caught up in every little drama and intricacy.
While this list of mindfulness tips is especially pertinent in the workplace, they can also be applied to your personal life. So why not give some of them a try? As the saying goes, “you don’t realize how bad you felt until you feel better.” You may not think that mindfulness is needed in your life at the moment, but you may be surprised at the energy, focus, and tranquility you feel as a result– both at work and at home.
Do you practice mindfulness in the workplace? What’s been most successful for you?
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