*** A blog post I wrote for work ***
Mindfulness has become a popular and fashionable word in recent times.
The mindful workplace is gaining popularity in leadership development with forward-thinking public and private sector firms such as Transport for London, Google, Harvard Business School, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, the Home Office and Toyota.
But what is it exactly? And how can it help your practice?
In today’s blog post we will focus on these key questions.
Our minds are our most important tool. Being emotionally intelligent and self-aware are important for so many reasons, not least because they equip you to take action.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness, quite simply, is the act of focused awareness on the flow of the present moment.
It brings out attention from the past, or the future, right here into “now”, so that we can be fully conscious of what we are doing, and what is going on around us.
How often have driven our cars somewhere, and had no memory of the drive itself? Or walked into the shops, and then had to go back to our car to make sure we locked it (because we had no memory of doing it)? These are examples of mindlessness. At the time we were likely caught up in our own thoughts. And as a result we completely missed what was happening in the moment.
It’s natural that we want to spend time thinking about past or future events. We want to analyse the past so that we can learn from those experiences, and we want to plan for the future.
However, as in all things, we need balance. We have to find the “middle way”.
The Benefits of Mindfulness at work
Mindfulness can help us learn to manage our minds, to improve workplace resilience, focus and concentration, leading to improved performance and productivity. It’s like training a muscle – training attention to where you want it to be.
With regular mindfulness you can:
- Calm your mind on demand
- Improve your concentration and creativity
- Perceive mental and emotional processes with increased clarity
- Develop optimism and resilience necessary to thrive
- Increase empathy
And how does this relate to our work?
In life, and in work, one of our biggest challenges to productivity is distraction. And not just the phone ringing, but the distractions that our minds present us with.
We may be trying to focus on one pressing task, when we remember the 12 others that are also demanding our urgent attention.
Whilst thinking about that, it occurs to us that we should really check our email. And since we are checking our email, we might as well check our social media accounts. And then, we may as well make that cup of coffee since we are distracted anyway. And so goes our entire day – in a frantic whirl of doing not much at all.
With mindfulness we learn to concentrate on one task at a time with calmness and focus.
And remember: When you’re calmly focused on a single task, your brainpower is multiplied. Whilst it may seem more productive to multi-task, in fact it often reduces our efficiency.
Build better client relationships
Notice the difference when you phone client away from your computer or any other distractions.
When your only focus is listening intently to what someone is saying, you’re likely to make them feel that the conversation is important to you.
Making a genuine connection with your clients helps you build trusted relationships – by being mindful in the way you interact with your customers will have a positive impact on your business.
Improve memory function
Next time you meet someone new – whether it’s a client, or a new business colleague – listen ‘mindfully’ when they say their name. Pay proper attention to the conversation and bring your mind back when you find it wandering. You’ll be surprised at how much you remember about that person next time you meet them and how good your overall memory becomes!
A lot of stress is brought about through worry of possible negative future scenarios. If we were to live completely in the present we would not suffer from this stress.
Stressing about future scenarios that haven’t happened is a pointless habit; with mindfulness we can redirect these negative and worrying thoughts back to the present moment and remind ourselves that the future hasn’t happened and so far is not controlling our present circumstances.
With mindfulness we can bring our focus back to the present. Where are we now? What’s happening in this moment (certainly not what we are worrying about). And it may actually never happen, and we will have wasted our time and energy, and missed out on what WAS actually happening while we were worrying about the future.
How do we practice mindfulness?
Personal productivity begins with mindfulness, and mindfulness begins with controlling our attention. Mindfulness is our most important defence against the constant onslaught of demands on our attention.
Mindfulness means to pay attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.
Begin your own mindfulness meditation practice.
Find a quiet place, then focus your mind on the present moment. Don’t think of other things, but sit in silence. Begin with ten minutes and meditate daily. Be aware of your thoughts, but be willing to release them and stop thinking about or focusing on them.
Mindful Hand Awareness Exercise
Grasp your hands really tight and hold for a 5 to 10 seconds, then release and pay attention to how your hands feel. Keep your attention focused on the feeling for as long as you can.
Mental Focus Exercise
Stare at any object and try to remain focused on just that object for as long as possible. Keep a mental watch on when your mind starts to wander, then just bring it back to the object. The longer you can remain focused, the more your mindfulness will increase.
Candle Staring Exercise
Stare at a candle flame for ten minutes straight while studying everything you can about it. When your mind wanders, become aware of where it’s going, then bring it back to the candle flame.
You can also practice mindfulness outside of meditation. Be aware of your body, your emotions, and what is happening at that moment. Notice sensations. Reduce distractions and busyness, and practice living in the moment.
Here is a short video on how to practice mindfulness.
Take this moment to remember that the future hasn’t happened, the past is gone and the wonderful present, is all we have and all that is guaranteed. Make sure you are part of each moment and experience the gift that is Now.