The world of business can sometimes seem relentless. The pace is often fast, with deadlines and demands bearing down on us. But in a world where productivity is highly sought after, can we achieve this without burning out?
What if it were possible to be productive while lowering the tempo? The practice of mindfulness, rooted in ancient traditions, has gained widespread recognition for its potential to enhance wellbeing and mental clarity.
Here we’ll delve into the concept of mindfulness, and how it may relate to productivity. We’ll look at the benefits of mindfulness, its impact on focus and attention, stress reduction and the cultivation of a positive mindset.
By tapping into this concept, can we unlock its potential to elevate productivity levels?
- Mindfulness is all about having non-judgmental awareness, and being present in the moment. Moreover, it can be achieved with simple exercises which anybody can do.
- The benefits this can bring to the workplace include greater focus and attention; reduction of stress; regulation of emotions; improved decision-making; and enhanced creativity and innovation.
- Practical steps you can take in the workplace involve setting aside time for uninterrupted work while minimising distractions; prioritising your tasks for the day, and breaking them down into manageable chunks; practising self-care; and minimising the use of technology when it’s not required for the job at hand.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a state of active, non-judgmental awareness in the present moment. It involves deliberately directing attention to the sensations, thoughts and emotions occurring within yourself and the surrounding environment.
It’s said that practising mindfulness allows people to cultivate a state of heightened consciousness, allowing for deep engagement with their experiences.
How can I achieve mindfulness?
Mindfulness techniques are actually very simple, and – importantly – accessible to everybody. As long as you don’t expect to achieve a zen-like state immediately, and are prepared to take the time to practice, you can train your mind over time to get better at it.
The key is to start simply.
Here are some simple techniques to get you started, although they are by no means exhaustive:
- Breath awareness. Find a quiet place to sit or lie down comfortably. Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath. Notice the sensation of the breath entering and leaving your body. Focus on the rising and falling of your abdomen, or the sensation of air passing through your nostrils. Whenever your mind wanders, gently bring your focus back to your breath.
- Body scan. Start by bringing your attention to your toes. Gradually move your focus up through your body, paying attention to each part. Notice any sensations, tension or areas of relaxation. This technique helps you become aware of your body, helping to release physical tension.
- Walking meditation. Find a quiet place to walk slowly and deliberately. As you walk, pay attention to the physical sensations of each step… the feeling of your feet making contact with the ground; the movement of your legs; the sway of your body. If your mind wanders, gently bring your focus back to the sensation of walking.
- Mindful listening. Choose a piece of music and listen to it attentively. Alternatively, you could choose nature sounds, or anything you find relaxing. Close your eyes and pay attention to the various sounds, tones and rhythms. Try to focus solely on the auditory experience without getting caught up in thoughts or judgments.
As mentioned, this is just a taster to start you off. If you’re interested in going deeper, consumer magazine Which? compares some of the best mindfulness apps here.
What are the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace?
By practising mindfulness, little by little, you may find your productivity increasing.
These are some of the ways in which mindfulness can increase workplace performance:
- Enhanced focus and attention. Mindfulness trains people to redirect attention to the present moment. This can improve their ability to focus on tasks at hand, by reducing distractions and increasing concentration.
- Stress reduction. For most people (although not all), stress and productivity don’t mix. Mindfulness practices – such as meditation and deep breathing – have been shown to reduce stress levels. And by managing stress effectively, it’s possible to maintain a more calm and composed mindset.
- Emotional regulation. Mindfulness promotes emotional intelligence by developing self-awareness and self-regulation. It allows us to recognise and navigate our emotions more effectively, preventing the kind of emotional hijacking which can hinder productivity. Cultivating a positive, balanced emotional state can help to keep us focused at work.
- Improved decision-making. Mindfulness is said to enhance cognitive abilities, such as attention to detail and critical thinking. By reducing cognitive biases and promoting clarity of thought, we’re likely to make more informed, effective decisions.
- Creativity and innovation. Mindfulness encourages the exploration of new perspectives. By engendering an open and non-judgmental mindset, workers can unlock their creative potential and generate innovative solutions to problems. This can sometimes take productivity in new and unexpected directions.
By adopting mindful practices, you’ll also be in good company. Big names such as Google, Microsoft, Nike and Goldman Sachs have all adopted mindfulness in the workplace. In fact, workers at Nike who adopted the practices reported an 80% reduction in stress, while 63% reported improved work-life balance.
This demonstrates that adopting mindfulness can achieve measurable results, which is a great way to promote such efforts to stakeholders.
What are the practical applications of mindfulness?
So how can this be put into practice?
Here are some practical tips for how you can use mindfulness for the benefit of your team’s performance and wellbeing.
#1. Mindful work habits
You can integrate mindfulness into your daily routine by setting aside dedicated periods for focused, uninterrupted work. Be sure to minimise distractions, such as emails, notifications and social media updates. In fact, dealing with emails or messages should be its own task, rather than something which encroaches into other tasks.
Practise deep breathing exercises, and listen to a playlist which you find restful. You can also engage in short mindfulness breaks to rejuvenate and keep your mind sharp.
#2. Mindful planning and prioritisation
Get into the swing of starting each day with a mindful approach to planning and prioritising tasks. Or – rather than packing up the moment the clock hits leaving time – take a few minutes for planning at the end of the day. Take a moment to reflect on what you’ve accomplished during the day, and prioritise what needs to be done during your next working day. This means the following day will already be organised, giving you focus.
To help, you can categorise tasks by priority, how much focus each requires, and how long they’re likely to last. Break them down into manageable steps, and allocate time for each task mindfully. Get the big, high-priority tasks out of the way early. Then move on to medium-priority or effort tasks, clearing the small, low-effort tasks towards the end of the day.
This will give you a sense of achievement early on, and the day should get progressively easier. Plus managing your time effectively helps to promote clarity and focus.
*Don’t forget that all goals should be SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timebound.
#3. Mindful communication
You can employ mindfulness in interpersonal interactions by actively listening, staying present in the moment and responding thoughtfully. Mindful communication fosters better understanding, collaboration and efficiency, which can lead to greater team productivity as a whole.
#4. Mindful self-care
Self-care is incredibly important, including for maintaining productivity. To this end, it’s best to prioritise activities that nourish physical and mental wellbeing – such as exercise, getting enough rest, healthy eating, and engaging in activities that make you feel at peace.
Self-care helps to replenish energy levels, and reduces the chances of burnout.
#5. Mindful technology use
Obviously it depends on what kind of work you do, but it’s a good idea to be mindful of technology’s potential impact on productivity. You can establish healthy boundaries by setting aside specific times for checking emails and notifications.
You might also consider practising digital detoxes, while minimising multitasking to maximise your focus – and hence productivity.
Should managers and leaders adopt mindful practices?
We believe that practising mindfulness offers a myriad of benefits that can boost your team’s productivity. By integrating it into your daily work habits, you may be able to reduce stress levels, while enhancing employee wellbeing and job satisfaction – all of which are likely to contribute to a job well done.
And while mindfulness is an individual practice, generally speaking, organisations can also foster a mindful work environment. It’s well worth looking into mindfulness training for staff, for example, and creating dedicated spaces for quiet reflection.
This way, you can help to bring about a more mindful workplace culture, while also benefiting from the productivity gains.