“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Although they come from one of the most famous slackers of all time, Ferris Bueller’s words couldn’t be sounder advice to today’s professionals.
Between the always-on, constantly plugged-in nature of the tech-enhanced workforce, and the ever-increasing demands placed upon said workers, our jobs can easily become overwhelming.
It feels necessary to take work home with us, and the stress begins to spill over into other spheres of our lives. But how can we break the cycle?
The answer is simple: By practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of being focused on the moment at hand and being fully present for it. Some benefits of mindfulness include increased productivity, improved relationships among team members and improved well-being. If you find yourself struggling with focus or are feeling overwhelmed both inside/outside of work, follow these tips and you’ll soon be a pro at practicing mindfulness.
Leave it all on the field
On the train home. Stuck in traffic. Eating dinner. Watching TV. Lying in bed. All of these are times where it is easy for your mind to wander. It’s also very easy for your mind to wander onto your work.
Even something as small as checking your email at home can open the floodgates of stress. By the same token, allowing yourself to focus on personal issues at work will sap attention and bandwidth.
By pushing back against these impulses and staying focused on the present moment at hand, you will keep yourself from being overwhelmed by nagging stress from outside projects and problems. Being present in the moment also includes moments where you aren’t working. Rest and relaxation are essential. By carving out and maintaining periods of time for you to recharge, you will be able to return to work feeling refreshed instead of feeling like you haven’t left.
Don’t put on blinders
It is not controversial today to say that multitasking is a myth. Avoiding multitasking is also an important component of mindfulness, however, this advice often gets misconstrued.
Multitasking requires us to spread ourselves too thin and bite off more than we can chew. The opposite extreme is not much better. By closing ourselves off and inducing tunnel vision, we lose sight of the bigger picture surrounding our work and how it may be affecting that of others. True and well-practiced mindfulness encourages full presence in the moment and awareness and attention to what is occurring around you. This involves using a measured and controlled approach to your work, pouring your energy into the task at hand, but not to the extent that you lose sight of the goal or fail to communicate effectively with your team.
Another benefit of mindfulness is the improved interaction between team members. By being truly present and attentive during meetings and conversations and practicing active listening, you and your team will be better attuned to each other’s work, creating fewer points of friction across all processes.
Work on it every day
Implementing a new practice takes…well, practice. Be prepared to struggle in the beginning. Accepting that taking on a new and fundamentally different approach to your work from one that you’ve grown accustomed to is an excellent first step, as learning to determine what you can change and what you must accept is part of mindfulness as well.
Don’t set out to be perfect on day one. Instead, start small by giving yourself manageable challenges with which to mark your progress.
When your mind begins to wander at work, challenge yourself to catch it early-on and get back on track as soon as possible.
Set a goal of taking a certain number of short, but uninterrupted breaks throughout the day and use them to rejuvenate your energy whenever it starts to wane. These breaks could be as simple as going for a walk around the block and leaving your phone at your desk, or even just stretching and resting your eyes for a few minutes every hour. No matter what strategy you follow, the important thing is that you fight to keep out intrusive thoughts and instead focus on appreciating the reprieve.