“Don’t do any task in order to get it over with. Resolve to do each job in a relaxed way, with all your attention. Enjoy and be one with your work.”- Thich Nhat Hanh
The clock ticks “work time.” No matter what time of day your workday begins, it’s not uncommon to experience increased cognitive load during the beginning of the workday. After all, there may be a litany list of tasks, deadlines, and competing priorities all demanding your immediate attention. This is understandably overwhelming… after all, the pressures associated with thoughtfully attending to any one of those tasks expediently may have serious implications for your career. Then again, many of those tasks could be much less important than they appear to be.
The thing is, getting sucked into a tailspin of feeling overwhelmed may ultimately take away from overall productivity, rather than adding to it. In other words, the reality very well may be that you have a sizeable amount of work on your plate, but expecting yourself to accomplish all of those tasks now is not only unreasonable, but most likely not in your best interest. Instead, consider integrating a more deliberate, calm, and mindful approach for boosting focus at work.
How to Boost Focus at Work with Mindfulness
Boosting focus at work with mindfulness is simpler than you might imagine. According to Victor Davich, author of 8 Minute Meditation: Quiet Your Mind, Change Your Life, “The most common reason people have difficulty focusing at work, and everywhere else in their lives, is their inability to be present in this moment.” If you are immersed within a workplace culture that values efficiency, multitasking, and excellence, there may be a considerable amount of pressure to feel you must be perfect just to meet basic expectations.
Although this interpretation is certainly valid, it is also likely to interfere with your ability to perform at your personal best. After all, chasing a nebulous visage of “perfection” is akin to running faster and faster on a hamster wheel, convinced that you’re almost “there.” The destination of this sort of idealized concept of perfection is an illusion, whereas the benefits to be gained from the journey toward the “perfect you” are quite real.
Consider how the following mindfulness exercises can serve as small simple steps toward boosting your overall levels of productivity, energy, and focus at work. Which of these mindfulness exercises appeal to you the most? Remember that the best mindfulness exercise for you is the one that you will actually practice. If it works for you and will help move you closer toward increased focus and productivity, then that’s “the one.”
(1) Morning Meditation
Integrating a brief mindfulness exercise into your morning routine can be a surprisingly simple way to derive noticeable benefits from a small new habit. The idea is not to feel as though you have yet another task or chore to check off your mental to-do list each morning, but rather to look forward to the opportunities to make use of small chunks of unaccounted for time in the morning to do something simple and different. No matter how rushed your mornings may feel, make use of brief moments to practice mindfulness… such as taking 10 seconds to take a few slow, deep breaths as you move from one activity to the next. Consider exploring the resources at the end of this article for further ideas for brief mindfulness exercises that would fit into your regular routine.
(2) Focus on the Breath
When in doubt, return to the breath… it is an omnipresent anchorpoint within each of us that we can turn to turning moments of distress, joy, boredom, and everything in between. Essentially, if you’re living and breathing – reading the words on this page – you have access to the calming and centering effects of tuning into your breath. If you’re feeling distressed, it’s not uncommon to feel as though you practically “forget” to breathe. Take a moment to reflect upon recognizing the simple fact that you are breathing. Do you begin to observe of your breath in a different way? Pause to notice if your breath feels shallow, labored, tense, or any other quality. The very act of becoming aware of your present moment experience of simple breathing is an act of mindfulness.
(3) Meditative Breaks
It’s easy to get caught up into a whirlwind of activities during the day and operate in a state of automatic pilot. As with many words and phrases, “automatic pilot” sometimes has a negative connotation, or valence. One of the core building blocks of mindfulness is releasing attachment to judgments, particularly tendencies toward reactivity and dichotomous judgments wherein a given thing is either all good or all bad. If human nature could be so easily reduced to this type of all or nothing thinking, a great deal of suffering that arises out of internal conflicts and cognitive dissonance would be alleviated.
Fortunately, our shared human experience is rife with a myriad of thoughts and emotions that aren’t necessarily easy to categorize in terms of “this” or “that.” Taking brief meditative breaks to engage in mindfulness exercises throughout the day is one way to hit the pause button and reconnect with your present experience. The tasks and responsibilities that lie ahead later today, this week, and this year will still be there… don’t worry. When you take a moment to use mindfulness as a tool to boost your focus and calm your emotions, you’ll be that much better equipped to deal with those tasks… one at a time.
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- UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center: Free Guided Meditations
- Mindful.org: Mindfulness Resources
- UC San Diego: Guided Audio & Video Files to Practice Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
Tartakovsky, M. (2015). Mind Wandering at Work? Try This to Refocus. Psych Central. Retrieved from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2015/04/01/mind-wandering-at-work-try-this-to-refocus/
Featured image: Concentrated by Leo Hidalgo / CC BY 2.0