Enhance productivity and reduce anxiety in the workplace through mindfulness
Mindfulness seems to have become the new buzzword, even for busy people who may have previously cringed at the ‘airy-fairy’ idea of applying the principles of meditation to their daily lives. It seems quite contradictory, when you’ve got a long list of things to do and urgent deadlines to meet, to instead slow down and sit in silence doing nothing. However, the practice of mindfulness can be an extremely effective tool for anyone wanting to increase their focus, concentration, effectiveness and productivity.
So what is mindfulness and how can it help?
Mindfulness is the art of bringing awareness to the present moment – the here and now – and clearing the mind of distracting thoughts. When we are mindful, we are aware of how we feel and what we are thinking right now.
It’s normal for thoughts to flit in and out of our heads. As many as 60,000 thoughts flood our minds daily and this can be very distracting. When we start on a task at work, we’re often interrupted both by our own thoughts – did I lock the front door before I left for work? have I got that PowerPoint presentation ready for later in the week – and by distractions from our physical environment – telephones ringing, colleagues asking questions, emails arriving. We can spend a large part of our daily lives running on ‘automatic’, mindlessly moving from task to task, being busy but somehow not getting much done. At the end of another hectic working day, we’ve only ticked off one thing on our to-do list and none of the urgent deadlines have been met. When distractions interrupt it’s important to be able to regain concentration quickly and shift the focus back to what’s important to do in the present.
Practising mindfulness doesn’t require any expensive equipment or a lot of time. One option is to take a class to learn the basics of how to practise and incorporate mindfulness into your daily life. There are also several apps that provide guidance (try Aura and Headspace, for example), along with numerous books that give tips on getting the best out of the practice.
As little as ten minutes daily is all that’s needed, along with a quiet and comfortable space. It is essential, however, to commit to regular short sessions, as the more you practise the greater the results will be.
One of the most powerful benefits of mindfulness is its ability to reduce stress and anxiety. It is all too easy to worry about stuff that has already happened or things that lie ahead. By shifting our focus back to the now, away from the past and the future, mindfulness alleviates anxieties and keeps us grounded in the present. Our sleeping patterns often improve as a result, which, of course, is essential to the normal cognitive functioning of the brain and to good health in general.
Mindfulness also helps to build emotional resilience. If you’re in a negative emotional state because, for instance, a customer gave you bad feedback or a colleague undermined you, it can result in poor work performance. Mindfulness facilitates the regulation of emotions by bringing you back to the present moment rather than allowing you to wallow in negative thoughts.
It’s also much easier to form new ideas when the mind is relaxed and decompressed. How many times have you thought of the solution to a problem when washing the dishes or having a shower? Sitting in peace and quiet without any distractions brings greater focus, thereby allowing you to come up with new ideas and devise plans to solve problems. Mindfulness, practised daily, helps to lift the fog and cut out the static, giving you clarity of vision and confidence to take action.
As with all the best things in life you won’t see a difference overnight, but practised regularly over time mindfulness will improve levels of concentration and efficiency, helping you to become a more relaxed person, ready and able to take on the challenges of life.