Will mindfulness ever be on the list of job requirements? Most likely the answer is yes. A mindful approach will boost your productivity, help you cope with procrastination, and grow your startup.
We always knew that it’s important to focus. “Stop daydreaming”, the teacher told us at school. “Will you please stop talking and get down to work?” And it seems that we did way better back then.
We pulled together and solved math problems, or took the tests, or learnt something new in class. We worked in short time blocks – just like the productivity experts advise – and took active breaks (too active, the teacher would say, but kids are kids).
Now that we are our own masters, we’ve largely lost our ability to concentrate. A modern workplace is full of distractions and demands, especially in constantly growing startup where one employee can be responsible for everything. Depending on how we react, this can have three serious implications: overworking, procrastinating, or multitasking. The latter isn’t necessarily bad, but it creates an illusion of being productive. It is actually an illusion, since while we switch between tasks, we lose both time and focus.
Multitasking is clearly a product of haste, and haste leads to half-baked ideas or unsupported conclusions. Stereotypes begin to prevail over unbiased thinking. That’s why if we want to do quality work, you need to learn something quite different: mindfulness.
It’s not by accident that many leading organizations from Google to the British NHS started offering classes in mindfulness and meditation to their employees. In an information society, a mindful attitude matters more than ever. It pays off with increased efficiency, creativity, and stress resilience.
7 Ways to Practice Mindfulness
As every other mental skill, mindfulness can be developed through training. It requires two things from us: focus and awareness (or consciousness). As Paul Graham notes, you can achieve more “by paying closer attention to the time you have”. This is the best formula of mindfulness I have come across so far.
Now let’s see how we can introduce mindfulness to our work lives.
- Breathing exercises. Along with meditation, this is an important yoga practice. Simply taking a series of deep breaths while you’re at your desk can help you recharge. Breathing exercises are also good for managing your emotions and achieving a clear state of mind.
- Staying aware of your time expenses. Bet you don’t know where all the working time goes! Startups prefer not to use time-tacking software working from dawn until nightfall. While they might be spending tons of time on email, team meetings, or browsing the web. If you get used to tracking down your time expenses regularly, you will also learn to spend it more wisely. Consider using a timesheet software that provides a breakdown of spent time by tasks. Another great thing about it is that you can see whether you were multitasking, and work on your habits.
- Focusing on the present moment. This involves cutting down distractions like mobile phone or mailbox, and working as consciously as possible. Focus your thoughts on a single task as if you were taking an important exam. This might slow you down at first, but will pay off later with better productivity and mind sharpness. To help you cope with distractions, try an ABC approach described by psychologists and yoga followers. First, become aware of the situation: What do you have to do? What distracts you from your work? Take a deep breath to relax. Finally, choose consciously what you will do: work or distract yourself.
- Taking short breaks. Your body needs movement, so take a short break every hour: stretch your legs, walk or make yourself a cup of coffee. Mindfulness means that you listen to your body’s needs and respond to them. Use these short breaks to unplug from work and refresh your mind.
- Active listening. Let’s admit, not all of us are good listeners. Next time you feel like your thoughts are wandering somewhere, make an effort to be fully present and listen to your counterpart. A mindful communication can help resolve or prevent potential issues in startup. And it will build you a great reputation, too.
- Training yourself on simple actions. To make mindfulness your habit, try practicing it on very simple actions, such as washing hands or walking down the street. Make yourself conscious of every small detail and get aware of your senses. This seemingly simple exercise will help you improve your focus and attention skills.
- Knowing when to move on. While multitasking is obviously a counterproductive approach, getting absorbed in a single task might also have its drawbacks. If you realize you have completely lost your pace or enthusiasm, it’s worth making a change. Focusing your attention on a new problem will give your mind a break.
Being mindful at work isn’t just about making no typos in emails, or remembering your colleagues’ birthdays. This approach means that you are fully present and focused on your work, instead of running on an auto-pilot all day long. Mindfulness helps you combat stress and work through difficult issues.
Everyone wants to be efficient and creative. And since it is sometimes hard to practice mindfulness in today’s hectic world, learning it can become your valuable asset – and even bring your startup to the next level.