According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, on an average, we're spending more than a quarter of our week at work. But working longer does not mean we're getting more productive if we're too tired and distracted. It is not entirely possible to avoid distractions at work. Instead, why not try to make our time at work fun, fulfilling, and worthwhile by being mindful of what's going on around us?
But first, what is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the art of being present in the moment—being fully aware of what's going on around you, and paying attention to your thoughts. An essential skill that mindfulness brings with is learning to turn away from distractions and focus on what's important right now.
For starters, it does sound like a bookish concept that claims to bring a welcome change in your work routine. But what's reassuring is that anyone can make this practice work, if they learn how to focus.
Benefits of mindfulness at work
We've laid out a few simple practices that will help you be mindful and bring some zen to your work environment!
Establishing a routine
A significant morning routine is important to get your day off to a good start. Interestingly, the human body's circadian rhythm, a 24-hour cycle which establishes the human wake and sleep cycle, is a key influence in your everyday productivity.
Plan your day ahead
The human brain processes information effectively when data is presented as lists!
We cannot emphasize this enough and turns out we're not the only one who enjoy making to-do lists. Studies show that the human brain processes information spatially and in chunks, and a list is the most effective way for the brain to receive and organize information effectively. Not just that, planning your day ahead will give a perspective on how you can manage your day-to-day tasks.
Find focus amidst chaos
We seem to be surrounded by a deluge of ideas, emails, day-to-day tasks, and apps that enhance our workplace productivity. Even apps that help us work faster can be distractions when we're trying to focus on something else.
Associate every task with a purpose to find focus.
Determining why you're working on something helps focus on the task. Ask simple, yet effective questions to yourself, what can you do about this? Why did this happen?
Set boundaries and cut yourself off from distractions until the task at hand is completed. It can be anything from not checking your phone, muting notifications on apps you're not actively using, or even placing a Do not disturb sign at your workspace.
Do one thing at a time
While multi-tasking is the buzzword in tech right now, it kills focus. Juggling different projects and tasks at a time will lead us to think we're getting more done, but as we reflect back on our work week, there will not be much accomplished.
Given how much everyone values depth and expertise today, it is crucial to build the level of focus and concentration to go with it. The best way is to approach one task at a time with undivided attention and not jump to anything else until the task at hand is complete.
Take scheduled time-outs
Work anywhere between 60-90 minutes and step away from your desk for a short break
Sometimes we sit tied to our desk for hours trying to get things done—stretch ourselves until we feel empty. We're all guilty of not taking enough breaks at work because it would mean putting work on hold—a good ten minutes that might instead help finish up this task! Contradictory to what most people say, a nonstop workflow will simply take a toll on our mental energy giving in to chronic stress and burn out.
Here's the thing: humans naturally move from full focus and energy to physiological fatigue every 90 minutes! Your body automatically starts sending you signals when you're overworked. Notice it. Act upon it.
The best solution is to work anywhere between 60-90 minutes and take scheduled short getaways from your desk for 15-20 mins. Get the most of your break by taking a walk outside, meditating, or a quick nap. That will work wonders on your exhausted mind.
Practice bursts of rapid communication
Communicating in rapid bursts helps teams work more effectively, as opposed to the common thought that constant communication helps employees stay aligned.
A study by Harvard Business School revealed that we're more likely to be productive when we try collaborating intermittently. This is more like the idea of collaborating together on one topic in one go, thereby making sure everyone is actively involved and focussed. A great way to make sure you have a space to bounce off ideas with your team is by creating channels or group chats in your team communication software. You can simply set up a time and let everyone know, so they prioritize appropriately and are constructive contributors.
Slow down to speed up
Most of us get trapped in a vicious cycle of rushing and trying to get too many things done, thereby creating anxiety, costing time and effort.
Run the risk of slowing down and take time to do it right the first time.
Separate your work items based on priority and complexity, think about what you'd like to achieve and the time you need to make that happen and get started! Work out a blueprint of all the work items, think through the dependency, and once you have a clear vision, speed up the execution.
Mindfulness is more than just practice. It’s a way of living. It makes us more aware of the present and cuts down needless stress. If you want to spark innovation and give your best at everything you do, then it's time to start practicing mindfulness.