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Tips for Mindfulness in the Workplace

Tips for Mindfulness in the Workplace

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve seen a lot of resolutions to “be more present” (mine included), but what does that really mean? Mindfulness is a trending topic. In fact the Huffington Post recently called 2014 to be The Year of Mindfulness. In the parent population, it’s a term and practice that we try to grasp as a possible “secret sauce” to attaining work/life balance. It seems so easy! If we could just be present with our kids, we’d feel so much better about our lives.

What we are missing, however, is that in most of our resolutions we committed to being more present for our children – but not for ourselves. For those who work, we have also left out a really important piece which is that to really practice mindfulness we have to apply being present to our entire life (even our 9-5!). Here are a few suggestions for practicing mindfulness in the workplace that will make you a more effective professional, and by default, a happier parent and spouse when you’re home.

1. Multitasking During Meetings. Recently, a colleague of mine tweeted:


How many times have you been caught red-handed responding to an email during a meeting or asked a question that you have no idea how to respond to you because you didn’t hear the context at all? Instead of being one foot in the door and one foot out during your meetings, close the laptop, leave the blackberry in your pocket and commit to being fully present. Your colleagues will appreciate it, and you will personally gain much more.

2. Listening. Whatever your office set-up, make an effort to move yourself away from the direct glare of your computer screen when you are meeting one-on-one with someone and instead align your body directly with the person so that you can be 100% present. If possible, even try to remove the desk as a barrier between you. It may seem like a small detail, but a large office desk planted directly between two people is symbolic not just of a physical separation, but a psychological separation. Don’t focus on the clever thing you might say when they’ve finished their sentence or how you might solve their problem. Instead, really take in what they are telling you and focus your energy on them. When we jump in with stories and recommendations, we actually shift the conversation to being about us and not about the person you’re supposed to be listening to. Ask reflective and probing questions and make sure they have finished their thoughts before you jump in. You’ll begin to feel the benefits of truly listening, your employees will feel your genuine interest in their work and development and you will realize just how much you’ve been missing.

3. Dwelling on Past Mistakes. Remember that major screw-up you made a few months back? Get over it. We learn from our mistakes and they make us better moving forward. It you remain stuck in the awful feelings and emotions of your mistakes from the past, you will carry them with you in your interactions today and tomorrow. They will eat at your confidence, make you second-guess your decisions and manifest in forms of weakness to your managers and co-workers. Someone recently said to me that he liked it when criticisms were phrased as “gifts”. Make sure your “gifts” are just that – open them up, find excitement with what’s inside, crumple up the paper and move on.

4. Obsessing About the Next Step. We’ve all done it. We obsess about our next promotion or pay increase and become entangled by the negative emotions when our expectations aren’t met. Planning ahead and creating goals is important – it keeps us motivated and excited for future development – but unraveling because the timeline you had in mind doesn’t materialize won’t do you any good. Consider what you can do right now to make you more likely to achieve your goals in the future. Be flexible with what life hands you in the present moment – whether it be a department reorganization, a surprise project or a new boss. See the opportunity in what’s happening RIGHT NOW. Appreciate who and where you are in your career, and indulge in self-gratitude. If you can master that, the future will take care of itself.

By following these mindfulness suggestions, you will lower your blood pressure, ease the stress and tension that you carry and begin to focus on the things that really matter. If you can truly be mindful in your work, it will translate into other areas of your life and make you a happier and easier person to work, love, and live with! Pair this practice with being more present with your children and family and you just might be on the path to enlightenment.

Have you experimented with mindfulness? What works for you?

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