Can mindfulness and productivity really sit together?
Surely mindfulness is about relaxation not being more active?
In reality, the benefits of mindfulness practice are far reaching and feeling relaxed is a happy bonus. Mindfulness is scientifically proven to help with issues such as anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, chronic pain, sleep issues. It can also help with stress management, focus and productivity which makes it a great tool to use in the business setting.
Here’s just 4 tips that will help you maximise your productivity and leave you feeling accomplished and on top of your game. I should say none of this is new or rocket science but that’s the beauty and simplicity of mindfulness and it never hurts to have a reminder from time to time. The key thing to remember throughout is that mindfulness is about being aware.
1. Topping and Tailing
Had trouble getting the kids off to school? Awful journey to work? It can be hard to concentrate and be productive if your mind is a scramble of other thoughts and irritations. So, as you sit down to start work and before you do anything else, get into the habit of taking a few deep breaths. This will help to ground you, calm any thoughts and distractions and create the ideal mindset for the job in hand. This is also a useful exercise to do at the end of one task and before you start the next. Think of it as mental punctuation throughout the day.
To take this a step further, once you’ve taken your deep breaths, take a moment to set your intention for each new task before you start it. So instead of, “I’m going to call X to discuss Y”, it could be “I’m going to call X to discuss Y and by the end of it I would like to have achieved Z”. Doing this helps to prime your sub-conscious so if your focus starts to wander in other directions, the sub-conscious will jump into action and bring you back to your intention for the task. If you’ve ever put the phone down and realised you didn’t action the original reason for the call – this is definitely for you.
So that’s topping – I’ll come back to tailing at the end.
Dealing with interruptions is a two-pronged approach; what you can control and how you can be kind to yourself with the things you can’t control. Firstly having notifications pinging left, right and centre does nothing but sabotage your focus and productivity. Research has shown that having your phone on your desk, even if it’s face down or turned off, can affect your focus. To minimise the interruptions you receive through the day, you could turn off notifications, put your phone out of sight and put a do not disturb sign on your office door. Then you can schedule time slots through the day to deal with your emails and messages. Take it further by hitting the unsubscribe button from things that you are no longer interested in.
Sometimes interruptions can’t be avoided. Mindfulness can help here as you learn to be aware of how you are responding to unavoidable situations. Stress mostly occurs when we want things to be different to the way they are but what happens when things are out of our control. The main thing is not to beat yourself up. If you feel yourself getting angry, frustrated, stressed etc, take a pause, breathe and be kind to yourself. Doing that will help you to be kind to others and avoid unnecessary confrontation. Be aware of your feelings, acknowledge them and accept that it’s OK to feel that way and then try and let those feelings go.
Productivity is often linked to time management. We are bombarded with adverts and recommendations for the latest new thinking and the promise of turning 8 hours into 16 simply by getting up one hour earlier. Great if you’re a morning person but if not, trying to force yourself into that kind of regime is unlikely to be sustainable and may well make you feel bad or that you’ve failed. Another approach when prioritising work is to be aware and mindful of your energy levels and work with them rather than against them. And remember that your energy levels can be different from one day to the next. Factors such as hormones, sleep, diet definitely come into play too, so it’s important to keep listening and being aware of what our bodies are telling us. You can start to prioritise important or high concentration tasks for when you know you’re at your best and save tasks that require less effort for when your energy levels have dipped.
4. Stepping Back
Picture the scene, you’re so caught up in a problem that you can’t think straight, nothing you try seems to work and it’s eating up all your time and brain power and causing significant stress. You’re in the eye of the storm and the more you think and fight with it the worse it gets. Practicing mindfulness teaches you how to take a step back to become the observer in a given situation. So instead of being in the eye of the storm, it’s like you’re watching it through the window from a warm and cosy space. Try putting the issue to one side and going for a walk or doing something else. The solution often comes to us when we’ve changed our focus and are least expecting it. Regularly practicing mindfulness and learning to step back brings you far greater clarity for problem solving.
And finally, the tail for the top and tail of the working day. Take a few moments at the end of each day to look back and note what you have achieved that day. Some days you might have to look a bit harder and that’s OK. Even when things don’t go according to plan, there will still be things that you have achieved and deserve to be acknowledged. It’s also an opportunity to highlight what needs to be on your intentions or to do list for the following day so you can start the next day prepared.
I hope this helps and even just one small change can make a big impact on how you work. If you’d like to talk anything through, I’m always happy to help.
With love and kindness