A few weeks ago, I was at my parents house to provide them care during their sickness. During my stay, I was working from home but my mind multitasked between patient-care and being productive at work. Some days were pleasant, but on days when my father didn’t sleep or eat well, my mind would lose its peace.
I attended meetings but I was constantly worried about rushing to check on him. My mind wandered in different directions, trying to recollect if he took his morning dose of medicines or not. It was at that time that I read about applying mindfulness in our work. I had read about mindfulness in the past, just that I didn’t know how one could apply it at work.
Mindfulness is being aware of what’s happening around and within you. What thoughts are running inside your head, where your mind is wandering when you’re trying to focus, what’s distracting you– being conscious of all these is mindfulness. To be mindful is to accept our thoughts and emotions as is. It means acknowledging the truth of how things are before you begin to self-loathe yourself or try to change situations around you.
In the incident that I shared above, I was going through a personal emergency. But a lot many times, even in regular work days, we are running on auto-pilot, hopping from one meeting to another and ticking off tasks from our checklists. And before we realize, the day nears towards the end and we start stressing about our progress. This stress paralyzes us further to put any new thought in our tasks and we mindlessly keep on producing outcomes.
There is a way to tackle all of this. We can feel more alive, present, and productive by practicing mindfulness.
How can we be mindful at work?
Mindfulness is getting actively engaged in whatever is going around you. It’s about being present in the moment and accepting them. One can practice mindfulness in everything they do at work. For example-
Bringing your whole self to meetings, without any prejudices that it’s going to be a waste of time.
Not using your phone during important conversations. No matter how urgent the call is, if you’re torn between a conversation and a phone call/message, you are not mindful of either of the tasks. Do one thing, and do it with all your heart.
Closing all browser tabs when working on a task that needs your undivided attention. No emails, no distractions, nothing.
Disconnecting from work while taking a lunch break. This gives your time to disconnect and reconnect and be more productive.
Practicing mindfulness leads to a more fulfilling work environment, the one where you are aware of what you are doing and why. You’ll be more confident in accomplishing your goals because you’re more aware and there are no loose ends. You’ll be more creative and things will flow one after another. You’ll be able to gauge limitations, or foresee failures.
I know what you’re thinking– it’s easier said than done. With a whirlwind of a day, it’s difficult to practice mindfulness in every task. However, now that we know how mindfulness helps us, we can’t possibly ignore it and move away, can we?
So, how can we create a more mindful workplace? Here are some of my suggestions–
Paying deliberate, careful attention to everything
Our minds are always wandering from one thing to another. At one moment we’re thinking about what our colleague said to us, another moment we are dwelling on the problems at home. One moment we’re fretting about salary hike and the next moment we’re daydreaming about our future vacation.
In this marathon of thoughts, we do very little work. Time flies by sooner than we think and we hardly make applaudable progress. As a result, we feel frustrated at our own competence.
Practicing mindfulness helps us switch off these distracting thoughts and concentrate on just one thing at a time. So, when you’re at work, empty your mind, switch off your phone, log off from your chats and sit down to do just one task (no multitasking) that you intend to do.
Even if your mind wanders, come back to the present moment and continue doing from where you left.
Mindfulness needs a bit of practice in the beginning, but once you start noticing your outcomes, you’ll truly begin to reap its benefits.
Developing awareness that leads to mental clarity and insight
I’m sure most of you have often felt relieved after completing a task that you perceived to be difficult. I often find myself saying these words–”Well, that was easy. I was being a chicken for no reason. Phew!”
My point is, that it’s not always a complex task that makes us feel stressed. Most often, it’s just the thought of doing that complex task that adds up to the tension. So, what we really need here is developing awareness of the tasks and having a mental clarity on what needs to be done, why and how. This helps us look through the problem and think of creative ways to do it.
Contrary to this, if you directly jump at the problem, with no context or clear narrative, you would only do a suboptimal job at solving it. Being fast doesn’t make you better.
So, whenever you begin working on challenges, start with a 10-minute mindfulness exercise. Close your eyes and relax. Give your full attention to your breath as you inhale and exhale.
Empty your mind of every thought and focus on how your lungs take in and move out air from your body. Just 10-minutes, and then go and give your attention to everything that demands it.
Exercising compassion with your teammates
Compassionate workplaces have a positive vibe and they have greater employee satisfaction percentages. When people work at a place where they are valued for their contributions, trusted for their caliber and cared for their well-being, they develop a strong bond with their team. Such an environment helps foster positive work relationships, team camaraderie, and ultimately better customer relations.
When you exercise compassion, you don’t follow a give-and-take approach. You do something to make up for someone else’s part because you feel their pain/problems and you would rather have them deal with their share of problems than worry about work.
Compassion at work has three components:
-Empathizing with your teammate’s problems
-Caring for your teammates
-Selflessly helping them when they need you
All of the above components are a crucial part of practicing mindfulness at work. A few instances where you too can practice compassion are–
- Be aware of what your teammates are going through and help them wade through difficult situations like loss of a close family member.
- Listen to your team member’s problems with an empathetic ear and try to offer a helping hand.
Think of mindfulness as a kind of meditation, something that you do to declutter your mind. Mindfulness is about enhancing focus and awareness in everything you do. I hope you feel hopeful after reading this blog and start practicing it at work.