Mindfulness and meditation are not synonymous. And for some people, they are incredibly different concepts and practices. While meditating can be an effortless and enjoyable practice that leads to great focus and a calm mind, for others, it can be daunting task to avoid. If you’re looking at ways to practice workplace mindfulness and want to steer clear of seated meditation and the “woo woo” spiritual undertones that some meditations have, keep reading for workplace mindfulness tips.
There are many ways to cultivate a calmer, more focused state of mind at work that do not involve seated meditation. Get started with one of these practices that will help you settle into a productive, purposeful, and balanced mindset.
Set an Intention for the Day
Mindfulness is all about knowing you have a choice on how you move through your days and respond to situations, and then exercising your power to make the choices that serve you well.
On your commute to work, consider the many people you will come across during your day and the tasks you will tackle. Then, find a word or phrase that you would like to align yourself with, to create the feeling of your day. For example, it may be “creativity” if you have a creative project to work on, or “fairness” if you have a big negotiation, or “productivity” if you simply have a lot to do. You can get as specific or as broad as you’d like here. The point is, to choose how you will step into your day and focus your attention on how you would like it to go. It is too easy and common for people to just let the day happen to you, versus taking control of the energy of your day with mindfulness and intention.
10 Mindful Breaths
When you get to work and sit down at your desk, before you even power up your computer for the day, take a moment to practice being mindful by taking 10 deep breaths in and out through your nose. Nothing fancy about this – just 10 deep breaths to practice workplace mindfulness before jumping head-first into your day.
No matter what happened during the morning, at lunch, or anything until this very moment, it’s time to enter your afternoon with a clean slate.
As you prepare for your afternoon, visualize how you would like it to go. Like you are playing a movie in your mind starring you, your surroundings, and your scheduled events of the afternoon, watch as it all unfolds exactly as you want it to go. Consider what you want to accomplish, what you want to say in your meetings, the positive exchanges you wish to have throughout the remainder of your day, and even the ideal outcome of those difficult conversations you may have to have. Visualize it all happening in the ideal way and working out exactly as you would like it to. As Wayne Dyer wisely said, “Thoughts become things,” so set the tone in your mind before stepping into your afternoon.
Take a Meditative Walk
Choose a 10- or 15-minute block of time in your day to take a slow stroll around the block or building. Walk slow, tuning into nothing but your breath and your steps as you put one foot in front of the other. Make sure to leave your phone behind for the walk so it does not interrupt your attention during this focused walk. (Anything can wait for 10 or 15 minutes, right?)
Fresh air not only feels good, but it can also increase your energy, improve your concentration, decrease your levels of stress and depression, improve your physical and mental health, and lead to a quieter mind overall. Got a few minutes of time to spare for the outdoors?
The term purposeful pauses was coined by Janice Maurturano and basically gives you anchors amidst your busy day to just pause and check in with yourself.
Choose an activity you do all the time at work that you can use as a trigger to practice being present. For example, every time you step foot back into your office, every time you step into the elevator, every time you wake your computer up from “sleeping,” every time you get into your car (if you drive a lot for work), or every time you transition from one meeting to the next. Use this time to bring your attention to your breath and your state of being, even if it’s only for 10 seconds. This common trigger provides you with frequent opportunities to practice workplace mindfulness and short bursts of mindfulness.
Designate Focus Time
This is all about taking time away from notifications, phone calls, emails, and other distractions, and declaring time for YOU to focus on what’s most important. Gloria Mark, a professor at the University of California, Irvine found that once you are distracted – whether from a phone call, question from a colleague, or a notification that pops up on your screen, it takes an average of 23 minutes to get back to a task. Think of how much time you could save simply by designating time away from distractions.
Listen to Music
So choose a tune that works for you to either pump you up before a task, or to use as background music while you work, and hit play. Typically music without words works best if you are going to use it as background music.
Finish Your Day With Reflection
Before you “sign off” for the day, take five to reflect. This can be a quiet exercise with your eyes closed where you bring to mind answers to the following questions or a journaling exercise, where you write down the answers. Either way, it’s important to be consistent and allow this to become a daily practice.
- What did I learn today?
- What did I accomplish today that I should celebrate?
- What happened today that I’m grateful for?
- What are my priorities for tomorrow?
The last question is an excellent way to clear your mind of the stray ends that may be lingering from your day and really nail down your top three priorities for the following day – or week if it is a Friday. It invites you to transition from work and unplug for the evening, without work continuing to weigh on your mind.
Try one idea or a few to squeeze mindful moments into your day to practice workplace mindfulness – even when you only have a few minutes to spare.