A collection of tips to help you embed mindful working in your daily routine. There are 12 so you can focus on one per month if that works for you. Otherwise you might want to try a different one every day and then stick with your favourites.
Tip 1: Take breaks
Regular breaks help to reduce stress and mental exhaustion so that we can move through our day with focus and clarity. Even a short pause can help us to reset so that we can more effectively take on the challenges that lie ahead.
Try this: After every Zoom call, take 1-2 minutes to sit and focus on your breath. Observe how you are in this moment
Tip 2: Positive outlook
As human beings we are hard-wired to focus on the negative. For our ancestors this was key to their survival. But in our environment it can give us a skewed perspective of life.
Try this: Take a few minutes to sit and think about who or what you appreciate most in your life. This could be a loved one, a pet, or even an experience. Observe how this makes you feel. Write it down on a piece of paper and put it in your pocket
Tip 3: Time management
The working environment has many distractions, which can have a negative impact on our productivity. It is important to have awareness of where our time is being spent.
Try this: Take control of your calendar rather than letting others fill it up. Proactively schedule time in your diary for strategic thinking, completing important tasks, or even taking your lunch break. Be ruthless with your time and don’t give it up without awareness and consideration.
Tip 4: Stress
As well as having a mental and emotional impact, stress can also manifest itself physically. For example tight shoulders, stomach pains and headaches to name just a few symptoms. But we don’t always realise that stress could be the trigger
Try this: Sit comfortably in a relaxed environment and scan your body from top to bottom, noticing any areas of stress or tension. If you feel able to release the tension, you can do so. Feel free to do this multiple times per day.
Tip 5: Multi-tasking
Multi-tasking is a myth. Our brains struggle to process two streams of information at the same time, e.g. checking emails while working on a complex project. What we actually do is quickly jump between those tasks, which is mentally draining and can affect the quality of output
Try this: Sit comfortably and try to focus on your breath. This simulates trying to focus on an important task. As distractions come into your mind, notice them, and make a conscious decision to return your focus to the breath. Continue going around this cycle as new distractions appear. The more we practice, the more automatic it becomes, so we’re cultivating the ability to focus for longer periods of time
Tip 6: Self-compassion
We are often very hard on ourselves. Our inner critic can be brutal. And in many cases, we’d never talk to a friend or colleague in the way we talk to ourselves. It is important to practice self-compassion so that we can overcome years of conditioning and achieve a more balanced view.
Try this: Think about the last time you were hard on yourself, and replay what your inner critic was saying to you. Now reframe the message by considering what you would say to a friend who was in the same situation. With practice we can gain awareness of when our inner critic has jumped into action, and move towards a more compassionate point of view
Tip 7: Awareness
There’s a lot we don’t notice, especially when we’re busy. And we often find ourselves going through our days in a state of auto-pilot. Have you ever travelled somewhere and not remembered anything about the journey? Have you ever eaten a meal and not noticed how it tasted? By cultivating our sense of awareness we can open up a plethora of new and unexpected opportunities
Try this: Go for a walk and focus on just one sense. That could be the sense of hearing, sight or touch. Really focus on that one sense, and completely tune in to it. You might be surprised at what you notice!
Tip 8: Mindful eating
The simple act of eating is an ingenious and complex process. But this is easy to forget, particularly when we’ve got tight deadlines and work overload to cope with. Take a moment to consider how important food is, both to our general health, and our ability to perform at our best. By eating mindfully we can create a healthier connection with our food, from both a mental and physical perspective
Try this: Before you eat your next meal or snack, take a moment to appreciate the food on your plate. Look at the appearance, the shapes and the colours. Notice the aromas. Feel any textures. Think about where the food came from, and the journey to your plate. Consider how hungry you are. Slowly take a mouthful and take a moment to tune into the flavours and sensations. Remain in this mindset as you continue to eat your meal, and at the end consider how that might be different to what you normally do.
Tip 9: Anxiety
Many of us experience nervousness or anxiety before delivering presentations or attending certain meetings. This can send us into fight or flight mode which can make it difficult for us to engage an audience or share our ideas. In this moment, all of our resources are focused on surviving a perceived life-threatening situation, which can inhibit our ability to perform
Try this: Next time you feel nervous, observe the symptoms as they appear. Perhaps the heart rate increasing, the temperature going up or the hands becoming tingly. Recognise that this is a natural reaction. It’s your brain trying to protect you from danger, and it’s doing exactly what it’s supposed to. Consciously relax your shoulders and take a few deep breaths, which will signal to your brain that there is no danger. This will help you to access your parasympathetic nervous system, so that you can reach a more relaxed state. This isn’t a magical cure, but with practice you may find that you’re able to reach that relaxed state more quickly and easily.
Tip 10: Nature
As a society we are spending more time indoors and online. However scientists are beginning to find evidence that being in nature has a profound impact on our brains, helping us to reduce stress, and increase attention, creativity, and our ability to connect with other people. It’s possible that getting outside during the working day can help us to achieve these benefits.
Try this: Choose a time in the day where you go outside and take in some fresh air. You can walk, run or just sit and relax. During this time, take a moment to appreciate the natural world. Maybe looking at the trees, listening to the birds or gazing at the clouds in the sky. Notice how you feel as you connect with nature and absorb the sounds and sounds around you
Tip 11: Connection
We are social beings, and human connection is important to us. It helps us to create an environment of safety and trust, where we can be our best selves. But when do we get a chance to really connect with someone at work? Mindful listening is a wonderful way to do this.
Try this: Engage in a conversation with someone you want to connect with. Ensure you are fully present and free from distractions, and set your intention to listen deeply. Put aside your own thoughts and opinions, and keep an open mind. Allow the person to speak uninterrupted. Observe their body language and facial expressions, and really tune in to what they are saying. You may notice a two-way benefit where your colleague also appreciates the connection, and the chance to share their thoughts with you.
Tip 12: Reflection
We are often conditioned to keep striving for more. To achieve one goal and jump immediately to the next one. We almost feel guilty for giving ourselves some space to assess the things we’ve done. However self-reflection can be a very beneficial exercise, which gives us greater awareness of what we’ve achieved or learned. This can help us to make smarter and more strategic decisions about what we do next.
Try this: Schedule some reflection time in your diary. When that time arrives, sit comfortably and reflect on the year you’ve had. Think about what went well, but also what didn’t go as planned. Think about anything that’s important to you. Just relax in your thoughts without judgement. You could also think about opportunities for the future. If you want to make notes you can. You might be surprised at what comes up.
There are numerous benefits which can be gained from introducing a mindful approach to work. We wish you all the best in embedding some or all of these tips, and would love to hear how you get on.