Let’s be honest. Staying focused at work can be hard enough on the best of days, even for the hardest working people.
You’ve probably felt it. And you’ve probably Googled “tips for boosting productivity at work.”
And when you did so, you probably found a million and one tips and tricks. But there’s another way you might not be thinking of that has been proven to be effective. And by implementing it, you might even find yourself happier and healthier in the process.
Enter: mindful practices.
What Is Mindfulness?
Okay, we’ll admit that mindfulness can take on a bit of an ambiguous meaning. But the short and concise description is this:
Mindfulness is the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever you’re doing at the moment — free from distraction or judgment.
If you’re thinking, “this sounds an awful lot like meditation,” you’re right. They’re similar. The big difference is that, whereas meditation is a temporary activity, mindfulness — and mindful practices — are more of a way of living in which you’re able to step back and be present in any situation.
See, mindfulness has been scientifically proven to reduce the brain’s amount of beta waves, which are associated with stress and anxiety.
And beyond that, a breakthrough study showed that meditation actually increases brain density in the prefrontal cortex — the part of the brain that separates humans from animals and is responsible for conscious thought and reasoning, including empathy, self-awareness, intuition, morality, and the ability to focus through emotional turmoil.
7 Ways to Boost Productivity with Mindfulness
Rather than trying to explain it any further, the most effective way to paint a picture of what mindfulness is — and how mindful practices can boost your productivity — is to dive into the ways you can use it to your advantage.
1. Do Meditation Exercises
Have you ever found yourself at work but your thoughts are anywhere but?
Maybe you’re distracted by things going on in your personal life. Maybe you’re frustrated from sitting in traffic. Maybe a colleague made a comment that rubbed you the wrong way.
Whatever it might be, taking a few minutes to meditate, regain focus, and get calm can go a long way in making for a more productive day.
You can do this on your own by simply finding a quiet room, sitting down in a comfortable chair, closing your eyes, breathing calmly, and relaxing. While doing so, try to observe all of your thoughts as they come and go without judging or resisting them.
The key is to simply be aware of them and then letting them go.
You can try a mindful breathing technique like the 4-7-8: breathe in for four seconds, hold it in for seven seconds, and exhale for eight seconds. Stay focused on your breathing the entire time, and then repeat.
If you don’t want to do it on your own, there are a ton of great apps, like Calm, that can help you do it with guided exercises.
2. Focus on One Task at a Time
Did you know that multitasking has been proven to cause productivity to drop by as much as forty percent?
While multitasking might seem like it’s letting you get more done at once, all it’s really doing is diluting the attention you’re giving to each task.
So, how does mindfulness apply to multitasking?
The whole premise of mindfulness is to be present and focused on the current moment. This mindset can also apply to stay fully focused on the task at hand. See it through and then move on to the next one.
3. Get Organized for Tomorrow
Before you call it a day, give a little forethought to tomorrow.
Look at what you need to achieve and build out your to-do list in advance. This way, you’ll know exactly what your day will look like when you come into work and you won’t be scrambling to get organized.
We’d recommend organizing your assignments by their priority level as well as the level of focus each one will require.
In doing so, you can focus on more challenging tasks when you’re feeling fresh and energized and you can also jump over to lower-focus tasks if you’re starting to get tired.
This will let you get more done each day while always ensuring you get the important stuff finished on time.
4. Eliminate Distractions
We’re all surrounded by distractions on a daily basis. But it might surprise you to know just how much one distraction can crush your productivity.
Believe it or not, once you’ve been derailed from a task by an interruption, it takes an average of 23 minutes, 15 seconds to get back on track. In fact, people spend a whopping average of four hours per day on their smartphones.
That’s almost an entire workday.
If that doesn’t show you the importance of eliminating distractions at work, nothing will.
Turn off notifications on your devices. Set black-out periods during the day where you’ll be unreachable and hyperfocused on work, then let colleagues, friends, and family know when they’ll be.
Most importantly, stay present with the task at hand until you’ve seen it through.
5. Exercise Emotional Awareness and Self-Regulation
Your productivity is heavily influenced by your emotional state.
Think about it.
If, say, you have a bad morning, or if you get a negative comment from your boss or a client, there’s a chance your productivity will be impacted all day.
By practicing mindfulness, you can learn to separate your conscious self from your knee-jerk gut-feeling reactions to situations. Things might still be frustrating but by learning to be present in the moment and to become more emotionally aware, you’ll be able to regulate your emotions more effectively, in turn allowing you to let go of negativity more quickly and get back to work faster.
6. Disconnect Each Day
Technology means we’re constantly accessible and plugged in.
Having email in your pocket means you can be reached at any time of day or night. Social media means we’re constantly able to tap into an endless stream of updates about people’s lives. The internet allows us to have instant access to a constant flow of media and information.
This can be overwhelming.
And in our tech-driven world, being mindful can sometimes be as simple as taking some time to put your technology away and do something else.
Whether it’s going for a walk or meeting friends for dinner, what matters most is doing something you enjoy and that gives you a break from stimulation overload.
7. Practice Self-Care
Last but absolutely not least, being mindful means practicing self-care.
Do your best to keep a balanced diet packed with nutritious food. Exercise regularly. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Drink lots of water.
As we mentioned in the previous point, technology means you’re constantly plugged in and accessible, which can make it easy to feel like you’re working 24/7. And this can be tolling.
Instead, be mindful of the fact that there’s a limit to what you can do on any given day and give yourself leeway on everything else. Taking breaks for rest and relaxation gives you the fuel you need to do your best work.
Mindful practices can help you get the most out of every workday. It’s just a matter of being conscious about implementing them.
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