Zig Ziglar said, “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four-hour days.” But just how much can we fit into those 24 hours, and is it more or less than the working professionals of yore? The introduction of the internet and smartphones put a world of information at our fingertips, but that might not be such a great thing for focus and productivity.
Research shows that our minds wander from what we’re doing about 47% of the time. Today, one of the most valuable resources available is your attention – that’s why advertisers are willing to pay so much for it.
To stay focused and boost your productivity in the attention economy, you must be proactive instead of reactive. Mindfulness can help you thrive in the face of stress and distractions. Try these tips to incorporate mindfulness into your day at work.
Take a break
Very few people can be constantly “on” for 40+ hours a week without getting burnt out. Take regular breaks and if you need to, block your calendar to ensure you have this time carved out. When you do take a few minutes away from your desk, make it count.
Don’t simply transfer your eyes from your computer to your phone and zone out on social media for 15 minutes. Instead, spend that time doing something that will refresh and invigorate you. Some ideas: walking, stepping outside or catching up with a coworker you haven’t seen in a while.
Despite what the research has shown about humans’ ability to truly multitask – namely, that we can’t do it efficiently – many of us still try to juggle as much as possible at work. The truth is that no one performs well when dividing their focus between two or more complex tasks.
If your to-do list is overwhelming, take a deep breath and spend a few minutes prioritizing. Mark whether each task must be done today, this week, or on a flexible timeline. Then, direct 100% of your focus toward your top priorities. Minimize your email inbox and flip your phone face-down. You might be surprised by what you can accomplish when you single-task.
If you’re constantly on the go with a packed schedule, your own wellness can be the first thing to suffer. But scarfing down fast food on the way to your next appointment isn’t doing your stress levels any favors.
When you balance nutrition, hydration and exercise, it’s easier to stay attuned to your body. Incorporating natural stress-relieving supplements like lavender tea or CBD gummies can also help you unwind and end your day with mindfulness. It might take a bit of meal planning or an extra 30 minutes for a morning workout, but that investment will pay off with increased mental clarity and productivity.
Fight the negativity bias with gratitude
We usually find it much easier to focus on the negative things that are going on than the positive ones. This negativity bias wasn’t always bad – as we evolved, it kept us out of danger and made sure we fixed any serious problems that might be threatening our survival. In the modern workplace, however, it’s just not productive to dwell on the negative.
When you experience a negative thought, like “I can’t believe we’re having another meeting on this topic,” use mindfulness techniques to put it into perspective. For example: “We’ve met a lot for this project, so I bet the results will be outstanding.” Looking at the bright side might sound simple, but it takes practice and dedication to get comfortable with responding to setbacks or frustrations with gratitude.
Practice letting go
Whether you’re a manager, an individual contributor or the owner of the company, working with other people can be one of the most challenging parts of the workday. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress after an interaction with a coworker, step back and ask yourself if you’re shouldering the stress of their workload or yours. Collaboration is crucial in any business, but at the end of the day, you’re responsible for your own role in getting the job done.
As a leader, you must be willing to delegate and avoid micromanaging your team. If you’ve hired the right people and set them up for success, you don’t have anything to worry about. In those overwhelming moments, mindfulness can help you gain some perspective.
Take baby steps
Practicing mindfulness is not easy, especially when you have a million things going on at work. Don’t push yourself to switch from chaos to zen overnight. Instead, set realistic goals.
Block a 10-minute break once a week for device-free reflection. Dedicate an hour here and there for focused work (no checking email!). Grab a salad from the drive-through instead of a burger.
Incorporating mindfulness into your routine at work can bring you clarity and perspective. With mindfulness techniques like single-tasking and practicing gratitude, you’ll train yourself to focus on what’s important while tuning out the distractions that won’t help you achieve your goals.
Photo is pixabay creative commons
Guest Author Bio
Jamie is a freelance writer who covers trends in business, technology, and health. She loves to go skiing, camping, and rock climbing with her family.