In the hustle and bustle of the workday, carving out time for moments of stillness might appear to be an impossible task or even unnecessary. But keeping your zen—your mind is aware, peaceful and relaxed in the preset moment instead of regretting the past or worrying about the future—isn’t just a luxury. Science-backed studies show that zen is a vital component that canenrich concentration, fuel creativity and fortify resilience during inevitable day-to-day disappointments, obstacles and stressors. Plus, Research shows that meditation can help you make fewer mistakes. If you’re a novice mediator, just one session of meditation produces changes in brain activity in such a way that it increases error recognition. Other studies report that just five minutes of zen can reset your brain and dramatically improve job performance, beefing up your career growth and earning power.

Starting Your Workday With Zen

In his just-released book, Which Way Is North, Will Cady, executive director of Reddit and in-house meditation teacher, shared with me how those of us with demanding schedules can cultivate workplace zen. He lists five strategies to infuse a sense of zen into your workday to cultivate a workplace environment where serenity and productivity coexist harmoniously.

  1. Don’t start your day with your phone. Cady suggests Kick-starting your day without diving straight into the digital fray. “Prioritize a morning routine that includes meditation, exercise or even a quiet moment with your favorite cup of coffee or tea,” he recommends. By delaying the phone check, he declares, you fortify your inner calm, creating a resilient foundation to face the day’s challenges. Your well-being deserves a peaceful preamble before the demands of work take center stage.
  2. Add zen to your calendar. Cady suggests embedding tranquility into your daily schedule by setting aside just five minutes for practices like meditation, breathwork or a brisk walk. “This intentional calendar invite serves a triple purpose: establishing a consistent routine, prompting self-awareness when you deviate (with no judgment) and possibly inspiring others who catch a glimpse of your commitment to well-being,” he explains.
  3. Practice breathwork in-between meetings. After a meeting concludes, Cady advises that you give yourself a moment to reset. “Inhale deeply for seven seconds, hold for seven, exhale for seven and repeat thrice. This one-minute ritual acts as a swift nervous system reset, preventing stress from accumulating, according to Cady. “Having weathered many days brimming with back-to-back meetings, I can attest to the efficacy of this brief yet potent practice in clearing stress and ensuring you approach the next task with a fresh mindset,” he declares.
  4. Categorize your workday. Cady advocates going beyond categorizing your tasks by delving into the energy dynamics of your work. “Identify which tasks invigorate you and which deplete your energy. While many categorize based on the nature of the work (admin, management creativity, etc.), few take stock of their unique relationships with these tasks,” he asserts, adding the importance of recognizing what sparks inspiration and what drains enthusiasm. “This awareness allows you to navigate your professional landscape with greater purpose and vitality.”
  5. Embrace the power of silence in meetings. “Let comfortable pauses linger during meetings, discovering that within the quiet, insightful ideas and moments of true zen can unfold, whether through others’ words or your own internal reflections,” he concludes.

Sustaining Your Zen During The Workweek

Employees working on autopilot face the risk of losing touch with themselves, the present moment, and the people around them. Commitments to self-care, spiritual life, family responsibilities, friends, partners, and children are frequently made and broken to deal with pressures to produce. Those preoccupied with producing tasks sometimes unwittingly seek a neurophysiological payoff from frantic working and get an adrenaline rush from meeting impossible deadlines. And inner awareness is little more than a vague, if pleasant, backdrop. Production becomes the central connection of life—the place where “life” really takes place, the secret repository of drama and emotion, as compelling as the one addicts experience with booze or cocaine.

The practice of zen brings about change from the inside out—regardless of workplace circumstances or the nature of job problems. The goal of zen is not to zone out, empty your thoughts, withdraw from the world or get high. Meditation or zen is a tool to notice the habitual workings of your mind, watch how your thoughts routinely create stress and how you can get them to relax simply by observing them with curiosity instead of judgment throughout the day. As you move through the workday, start to notice where your mind goes from moment-to-moment. While walking to the printer or waiting for a Zoom meeting to start, try listening to sounds or tune into body sensations.

More mainstream companies are starting business meeting with meditation or breath work exercises that fuel brainpower, energy and productivity throughout the workday. In a stressful, drawn-out meeting, focus on your in-breath through your nose and out-breath through your mouth, using box breathing or Cady’s third technique above. Breathing is something most of us take for granted because it’s automatic, and we’ve been doing it since the day we were born. But your breath is a valuable resource against work stress, and it’s with you wherever you go. Breathwork stimulates the nervous and cardiovascular systems, enhancing both physical and mental health. Slow breathing techniques in a conscious and systematic way stimulate the rest and digest response managed by the parasympathetic nervous system which offsets the stress response of the sympathetic nervous system.

On the way from the parking garage to your office, instead of mentally flipping through your day’s agenda, bring your attention to the sensations of your feet against the ground or focus on the feeling of the open sky or sights and sounds around you. Notice the difference between when you’re in the here-and-now and when your mind drifts to the past (the boss who did you wrong five years ago) or the future (what if your job’s on the chopping block). Out-of-the-moment episodes are roadblocks to job production, career success and earning potential. When you find your mind wandering, gently bring it back to the present and focus on the what you’re engaged in. In the long term, you know your zen is working when you’re more grounded in the here-and-now instead of mentally stuck in the past or future and you notice your engagement and productivity start to soar.


  • Bryan Robinson, Ph.D.

    Journalist, psychotherapist, and Author of 40 books.

    Bryan Robinson, Ph.D.

    Bryan Robinson, Ph.D. is a professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, psychotherapist in private practice, and award-winning author of two novels and 40 nonfiction books that have been translated into 15 languages. His latest books are CHAINED TO THE DESK IN A HYBRID WORLD: A GUIDE TO WORK-LIFE BALANCE (New York University Press, 2023)#CHILL: TURN OFF YOUR JOB AND TURN ON YOUR LIFE (William Morrow, 2019), DAILY WRITING RESILIENCE: 365 MEDITATIONS & INSPIRATIONS FOR WRITERS (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2018). He is a regular contributor to, Psychology Today, and Thrive Global. He has appeared on 20/20, Good Morning America, The CBS Early Show, ABC's World News Tonight, NPR’s Marketplace, NBC Nightly News and he hosted the PBS documentary "Overdoing It: How To Slow Down And Take Care Of Yourself." website: