Being mindful means being in the present moment. Often we talk about how important this is when we are spending time with our families or doing our best to enjoy a vacation.

But being present is just as important at work. 

A mindful approach to work will allow you to get more done and feel more fulfilled. Ironically it will also help you enjoy and be more present in your time off because when your work commitments feel under control it is easier to enjoy the time that you are not working.

It does not mean that you have to sit in a lotus position and meditate all afternoon at your desk.

That would be counterproductive.

Instead, it is about being more present in your work, whatever it is that you are doing. Here are seven strategies that can help, no lotus required.

1. Make a conscious decision to be present.

The first step to being present is deciding to be present. Do this by taking the time to arrive at your workspace at the beginning of the day, find stillness there and tell yourself that you will be present. Commit at that moment to focus on your work and commit to bringing your attention to even the most mundane work.

This may mean that you work more slowly at first, but in the long term your work will improve and you will get more done.

2. Connect with your senses rather than getting lost in your thoughts.

When you are working on something, especially more mundane tasks, it is easy to to get distracted. You know the feeling when your mind wanders and you read (or write) a paragraph and wonder what it is you just read (or wrote) – your body is present, you are going through the motions, but you aren’t actually getting work done.

Unlike your mind, which tends to wander incessantly, your senses are always in the present moment.

Paying attention to your senses brings you out of the wandering and back to the present. This can be as simple as the feeling of the keyboard under your hands and fingers, the sounds of the office or a smell that you can pick up.

Your breath can help: take a deep breath and feel the air enter and leave your body – breathing happens now so paying attention to your breath is always bringing you to the present moment.

3. Focus on a single task

You can’t multitask. Even if you think you can, you can’t. When you are multitasking you are actually multi-switching; moving back and forth between tasks very quickly.

This is outrageously inefficient. It takes us 5 to 10 minutes to work our minds into a project. On average we are interrupting ourselves every three minutes so almost never get a chance to work on anything in any depth.

It is amazing that we ever get anything done.

Start single tasking by turning off as many digital notifications as you can. These notifications are specifically designed, purposefully, to draw you out of the present and into the world of the notifier.

I have even read many mindfulness advice pieces that say you should set an alarm to remind you to be mindful. Turn that one off first: the second the alarm goes off you are taken out of whatever it is you are doing, i.e. the present moment, to pay attention to the alarm that is there to remind you to be in the present moment.

There is no way to make that sentence make sense. So just turn off alarms and notices and anything that beeps or shows up on your screen.

As you turn off your notifications, start writing down your tasks. Keep track of what you need to do so that you don’t forget it. The fear of forgetting a task or time lost hunting in your brain for that thing you know you needed to do can be just as disturbing as the task itself. Refer to that list and use it.

Also, note your accomplishments – cross things off and celebrate wins. This way you will see that you are accomplishing more than you expected.

4. Slow down to speed up

Again, we know that we can’t multitask. And there are a number of studies that show how ineffective dividing our time can be. In “Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School” interruption can lead to 50% more errors. This means rework and less productivity.

Trying to work quickly and get things done leads us to juggle multiple tasks which leads to errors, rework and wasted time.

Slowing down to do things right the first time leads to better results and paradoxically faster output.

This can feel difficult to do if you work in a very aggressive task focused environment. The truth is, though, that working fast and focusing on multiple tasks is so detrimental that if you do stay present and work slowly you end up with an advantage, especially in a fast-paced environment.

5. Practice being present.

Take a break. Go for a walk. Breathe. Talk a few minutes here and there to be present with your self, your senses, and your breath.

This is practice. If you take a mindful walk or eat a snack in a mindful way, you will be training your brain to be more present, which will make being present easier when you are back at your desk.

6. Cultivate humility in your self.

Humility can be seen as weak and not assertive enough for a corporate environment. In fact, humility is attractive, people are drawn to those who demonstrate authentic humility. This attraction motivates people to work for and with you.

In Jim Collin’s book “Good to Great” he shows that the most successful firms had leaders who demonstrated humility by both not blaming others in an effort to protect themselves and also looking outside themselves to find others to celebrate.

Giving credit, showing respect and celebrating others gives you a lot of credibility in the eyes of other people, making you a more effective leader, allowing you to delegate more and leading to better results.

7. Accept what you cannot change and focus on what you can.

Much of being mindful is accepting the world as it is. There are many more things that we can’t control in our lives than things we can.

Simple things like my favorite, someone texting in front of me at a green light, or the train being late, or the weather, have the potential to derail us for the entire day.

And there is any number of things that we can’t control at work. The current state of a project, the cost of an initiative, the actions of a coworker are all things that cannot be changed. As irritating and grating as these things may be, dedicating our time and energy to them is just a waste of time.

Instead, focus on the things you can change: the solution to the problem that you can control or influence and the work that you can get done. Doing so will put you in the more proactive situation of getting work done, rather than stewing over yesterday’s news.

Mindfulness is not just sitting in silence and meditating. It is the way we approach the world, our relationships, and our work. Using these tips you can use mindfulness to be more effective and satisfied with your work.

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