Like other buzzwords and a lot of the concepts tangentially related to the wellness movement, it’s fair if you’ve considered writing off mindfulness as a passing trend.
The idea is, focusing on how you feel in certain situations will give you more control over how you respond.
As such, mindfulness is well worth exploring. And, it can get you through the frustrations, stress, and other hallmarks of your working life.
In today’s office, you’re dealing with office politics, a soundtrack of chatty coworkers, and passive-aggressive messages firing from all directions.
Here are a few mindfulness tips you can take with you, even if you have a wide open desk in the middle of an open plan.
How to boost mindfulness at work
1. Prioritize tasks in advance
Mindfulness in the office starts with thinking with intention about how your day will play out. When you start the day with no clear plan, you risk wasting time hanging out in your inbox or playing it by ear.
Instead, set an alarm 15 minutes before you leave and use that time to write down a list of priorities for the next day.
This pre-planned to-do list gives you something to get started on first thing in the AM. And, it also allows you to start being mindful of where your time goes. As time passes, you’ll learn how much you can take on each day and can plan with greater accuracy.
We also recommend writing down a big picture to-do list at the end of the week. Every Friday, list goals to address for the following week.
2. Practice your breath work
It’s not just for the yoga mat. Deep breathing can change the way your brain works. Controlled breathing may improve immune health and boost energy metabolism, which might play a role in fighting fatigue and avoiding the office cold.
Research published in the Journal of Neurophysiology found that deep breathing can help you access new parts of your brain.
Deep breathing can help you control your emotions, meaning you’ll be able to keep your cool in the face of those little frustrations. Think passive aggressive CCs or interrupting colleagues.
Get started by following these steps:
- Sit in a relaxed position — in a comfortable chair or on the floor.
- Try to relax your body and notice any areas of tension. Notice where you shift your weight and notice any sensations, stress, or other feelings.
- Tune into your breath. Notice the natural flow when you breathe in and breathe out. No need to change anything, keep it natural.
- Pay attention to where you feel your breath inside the body — it might be in the stomach, chest, throat, or right there in your nose. Notice whether you can sense any evidence of the last breath. Paying attention to those slight sensations is an exercise in mindfulness; you’re learning about your body a
- If your mind wanders (perfectly normal), try to redirect it back to the breath.
- Sit for about five minutes and observe your breath. Return to your breath and repeat.
- Relax — take a moment to acknowledge your effort (whatever that means for you) and return to work refreshed.
3. Focus on one task at a time
We’ve said it before — and science backs it up — pretty much everyone sucks at multitasking. It’s not a strength. In a study from Ohio State University, students who multitasked felt like they were more productive, though their output suggested the opposite.
Task switching can cost you up to 40% of your productive time.
The APA says the brain wasn’t designed to perform multiple tasks at a time, and rapid switching between tasks can result in a mindfulness disaster.
Instead, take some time to slow down and take things one step at a time. Your brain might freak out at first, tempted to click over to your inbox after just a few minutes of single-tasking.
4. Address emails and small tasks ASAP
Now, we’re not suggesting hanging around your inbox all day. That’s a major productivity killer to be sure.
But, emails are like tasks, and when you do check them, make sure you respond right away — as they come in.
This way, those little stressors like remembering on the drive home that you forgot to email a colleague about something important won’t come up as frequently.
Same goes for tasks that take less than five minutes. Often we put off things that take minimal effort — be it a boring errand or a simple organization process. The longer it waits, the more it’ll feel like pulling teeth when you finally get down to business.
5. Write some stuff down
Mindfulness experts and enthusiasts alike will be quick to tell you to write down what you’re grateful for.
The traditional gratitude journal usually entails writing down three things that make you happy. This is all well and good, but if the gratitude journal isn’t quite your bag, frame it a little differently.
When you’re getting ready to head out, shut the computer, or whatever signifies the end of the day, write down at least one positive thing that happened during the workday. This could be something simple like: “finished follow-up calls” or “wrote the first draft.”
Or, use this space to document your goals. Even better if you can break goals up into a series of actionable steps.
Another idea is writing a “done list.” While not a straightforward representation of gratitude, a done list is a way to keep track of your accomplishments. It’s something you can look back at when you need a boost—like a “hey, I really am getting things done” reminder.
6. Start the day with meditation
Kicking off the day with 10-15 minutes of mindfulness meditation can set the tone for a day of calm. Before you head out, sit down in a quiet room, close your eyes, and breathe deeply.
Acknowledge your thoughts as they come, but refrain from judging. It’s about awareness. While meditation might not be for everyone, it’s worth giving a try. Experts and a whole range of successful people swear that the practice has made them more productive — improving clarity and calm.
7. Set mindfulness reminders
As the day wears on, your brain will start to hit a wall. Whether you’ve chowed down on a big old lunch or just feel fatigued, mindfulness can help you sharpen up the old brain.
Set timers on your phone, every hour or so. Each time the timer rings, take a mini break to do a short mindfulness exercise. Be it a five-minute meditation or a walk around the block; these little breaks will keep you from working like a zombie.
8. Make time for the outdoors
The glow of your laptop is no match for the good old sun. Make sure you pencil in some time to go outside a few times a day.
Movement can help you boost memory retention and focus. Leave your phone behind (or on airplane mode) and pay attention to the sights and sounds in your environment.
The point is, this little act of mindfulness allows you to reconnect with how you’re feeling in the moment.