What would you say is your most valuable asset? Had you ever considered your mind?
Our mind allows us to experience emotion, show kindness, be creative, problem solve – it defines who we are and how we respond to the world around us. And yet despite all of this, we often don’t take the time to look after it.
It has been proven that we are happiest when our actions and thoughts are aligned; but almost half of our thoughts are not actually related to “what” we are doing. How many times have you driven somewhere familiar on autopilot, thinking of a million other things you need to do? We are often lulled into a distracted state and are simply going through the motions, rather than being present.
This is most common at work, where each day we enter a world of multitasking and distractions. Honestly, we’re addicted to multitasking because it feels good. We get instant gratification when we complete a tiny task like sending an email or making a call, which makes us feel like we’re being productive. But in reality, we’re achieving far less by trying to do it all. Our brains struggle to switch between tasks, meaning we lose time trying to refocus and get back in the zone. This can lead to unnecessary stress, reduced productivity and efficiency, and lower quality work.
So how can we train ourselves to fully commit to one thing at a time?
It’s unrealistic to expect every employee to switch their phones off and ignore their emails, but we can learn to manage and compartmentalise tasks using certain brain exercises. Brain exercises can help boost memory, improve concentration, enhance your creativity and even shift your mental state. Studies show that when people meditate or practice “mindfulness” daily they see significantly reduced stress, fear and anxiety.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness, in it’s simplest form, means awareness. It’s a mental state achieved by being conscious of what you’re doing in the present moment, while calmly acknowledging your thoughts and feelings. Learning to block out external distractions and focus on the thing you’re doing at that moment in time takes practice and patience. It’s easy to let your mind wander and begin thinking about other things and making a mental to-do list, so we have train ourselves to purposefully pay attention.
These simple techniques can help you to be more present, focused and calm at work:
- Create a 5 or 10 minute calendar invite at the same time every day and commit to sitting in a quiet space, calming your mind and breathing deeply.
- Set yourself some mindfulness “triggers”. A trigger is a reminder to break out of autopilot and come back to the present. Take a conscious breath when you walk through a door, stretch when you stand up from your desk or look at a photo that makes you feel calm and centred.
- Focus on one thing at a time while actively blocking out distractions such as phone calls or emails. Try assigning time in your calendar to individual tasks. Turn off email notifications for 20 minutes and get in the zone to complete one task entirely.
- Take regular breaks to gain perspective on what you’re doing. Sit back and pause, write down your goals for the day or take a walk around the block. Read more about how “slacking off” at work lead to higher productivity.
- Exercise to get out of your head. Exercising is the best way to improve memory and attention, and can be a great stress reliever when dealing with multiple deadlines and projects.
- Learn to associate zones with a certain activity. These can be physical; such as no tv or computers in the bedroom, eating lunch away from your desk. Or mental; only answering emails or making calls during work hours.
- Listen to music while working through your tasks for the day. Music can help block out external distractions and conversations and has been proven to help with concentration, creativity, stress and mood. Putting headphones in for a short period during the day is also a gentle reminder to your coworkers that you need some quiet time focus and get in the zone.
When you’re feeling calm and happy at work, you’ll be more productive, engaged and motivated to give it your all.
Remember, mindfulness won’t happen overnight, it takes practice. So don’t punish yourself when it feels hard. Stick with it and soon these techniques will turn into habits. Our brain is a muscle and just like our bodies, it needs exercise to remain strong and healthy. So set aside some time each day to meditate, gather your thoughts, take a deep breath, or even just remind yourself to be completely present in that moment.
To help you along the way, we’d recommend a guided meditation app called Headspace which can get you started.