Mindfulness is all the rage in organisations these days. It seems everybody is doing it. From major corporations to individuals, to defence forces, to Universities to weekend retreats. There are mindful leadership programs and mindfulness based stress programs and mindfulness programs for managing depression.
What is mindfulness? In its simplest form, mindfulness means awareness. It is paying attention and attending to the present moment without judgement.
It is being used as a tool for focus, to improve productivity, to manage stress and mental health, to improve resilience, to improve leadership, emotional intelligence and communication skills. It is providing executives and their staff with a new way of working. With mindfulness training you are more able to successfully prioritise, be focused, be more efficient, ignore distractions, grow emotional intelligence, more easily deal with conflict and feel better.
Mindfulness gives us the ability to keep our perspective and focus (no matter what is going on around us). It helps us to consider alternative courses of action calmly with the intelligent area of our brain, rather than reacting thoughtlessly with the more primitive part of our brain which usually takes over when we are feeling stressed or under pressure. Mindfulness helps us to remain calm and not get caught in the grip of emotion when things around us begin to get ‘busy’.
How Can We Practice Mindfulness In The Digital Age
Mindfulness training can be done any time you have a few spare moments. You close your eyes, come back into the present moment and focus on your breath. Sure it is fabulous if you can do it for twenty minutes every day, but if you can’t, take what you can get.
Start your working day with ten minutes of mindfulness while your laptop boots up. Sit quietly and bring yourself into the present moment. Focus on your breath and leave behind all the things that happened at home in the morning. Bring your attention to your breath and the moment you are in. When you have done ten minutes of training, turn your mind and your attention to what you aim to achieve during the day.
Here are seven other ways you can incorporate the power of mindful pauses into your working day:
- When your phone rings: Take three deep breaths to centre yourself, come into the moment and turn your focus to the phone call before picking up the phone. This enables you to turn your attention from what you were doing to the person who is on the other end of the phone.
- Before checking email: We have an almost manic urge to check email as soon as an alert sounds or we want a mental break from what we are doing. Instead of giving into these impulsive urges, try waiting ten breaths before checking your email.
- When you’re checking social media: In the same way, we yearn to check email to see if there is anything exciting happening, we also have the urge to check our social media. We wonder how many people have responded or what others are doing that you didn’t know about. Notice the thoughts you have as you read each item. How does it make you feel, what do you think? How do you feel before and after you check social media? Is there any element of unhealthy thinking or feeling associated with what you are doing?
- Leave your mobile phone behind or turn it off: This is a challenge for most people. We live in a world where we feel compelled to check it while we are driving or watching the movies. Notice any addictive habits you have and try leaving your phone behind every now and then. Turn it off at night and see if it gives you a better night’s sleep. Put it in your bag or in a drawer at work, rather than leave it on your desk top. Notice how you feel when you don’t have it with you. Be aware of the experience without any judgment, it is what it is.
- When you’re working on the computer: Notice what happens to your energy levels while you are working at your computer. Do they sag after a while? How long before they sag? What do you do when your energy starts to get low? How are you sitting in the chair?
- When you’re waiting: Our days seem to be filled with moments of waiting. We wait for the bus, we wait in the traffic, we wait for the printer, we wait for someone to answer the phone. Waiting and the patience it requires are a part of our lives. How do you feel when you have to wait? Do you become agitated? Does it help? Is there a better way to fill the time you are waiting? Would it be possible for you to take three deep breaths and allow yourself to relax without doing anything and without feeling negative while you are waiting?
- Meetings: Do you take electronic devices into meetings? How focused are you on the meeting? How would it feel if you left your electronic devices behind and focused your attention on the meeting? Could you contribute in a more meaningful way? Would the meeting finish sooner if everyone did the same thing? Some organisations now have baskets at the meeting room door for you to leave electronic devices in. If the meeting organiser sees you on an electronic device during the meeting, you will be asked to leave the room if you have something more important to attend to than the meeting? What difference would that make in your organisation?
Mindfulness brings some of our digital behaviours into awareness. Awareness leads to self-empowerment. Once we are aware of our behaviours we can then release our automatic reactions and make conscious choices about how we are spending our time and energy during the working day.