How to Stay Mindful Throughout Your Work DayApr 28, 2022
Research shows that 47 percent of people spend almost all of their time thinking about something other than what they are doing. Learning to be mindful is the practice of paying attention to what’s happening inside and outside of you in the present moment. Mindfulness is having an accepting and kind attitude toward yourself and the present moment. It’s about training your mind and body to be in the now, which is an essential skill to improve your awareness throughout your day – both at work and home. Time is our most valuable currency, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. It’s in your best interest to experience each moment to its fullest, so you won’t miss anything in your life.
If you find yourself thinking about something else other than what you’re doing the majority of your day, you aren’t alone. This is called living on autopilot, which is the opposite of mindfulness. Living on autopilot feels like picking up your phone with an intention to complete something, but 30 minutes later finding yourself scrolling and wondering what you were doing in the first place. Here are six signs you’re living your life on autopilot:
- You do something before you think about it.
- You multitask.
- You rush through the day in reaction mode.
- You miss key details.
- You overthink and overanalyze.
- You have low energy.
If you are living your life on autopilot and desire a course correction, mindfulness is the answer. At the most basic level, the word mindful means “to remember.” We have constant streams of information coming at us throughout our days from emails, to text messages, to social media check-ins and (not to mention) countless meetings. Everything and everyone wants our attention, and if we aren’t mindful then they will get it. Becoming a mindful person is a skill that requires you to train your brain to be aware of the present and what you are doing.
Have you ever wondered why some people can get more done in a day when it takes others a week to complete the same amount? More time isn’t usually what we need to get something done – it’s being more mindful. A mindful mindset at work is defined by two main skills: focus and awareness. Mindfulness at work means applying focus and awareness to everything you do during your work day, from moment to moment. When you are solely focused on a single task, you are likely able to get more done in less time throughout your day. Awareness is knowing when you are being distracted by outside noise and having the ability to release and let it go. The best part about becoming more mindful is that it doesn't require you to sit in meditation for an hour a day, instead it’s about taking simple steps to clear your mind and sharpen your focus.
When you awake in the morning, notice the first thoughts that come to mind. Regulating your nervous system and staying calm are two superpowers you have to be more mindful. If you immediately think about your stressful day ahead and how you are already running late, then you are activating your “fight or flight” stress response and releasing cortisol throughout your body. All of this before you’ve even enjoyed breakfast! Instead, as soon as you wake up, take a minute or two to simply bring awareness to your breath. Before grabbing your phone, take a moment to breathe slowly and intentionally to center yourself. Once you have brought awareness back to the present, be intentional with your thoughts. Thoughts like “I am really grateful that my bed kept me warm last night,” or “Today is going to be a great day and I am looking forward to it,” can set the stage for a more mindful day ahead.
When you arrive at your desk, resist the urge to immediately check your emails and dive right in. The majority of your day will be giving your attention to others and their needs, so take 5 - 10 minutes at the onset to give attention to your own. Sitting at your desk chair, close your eyes and focus on conscious breathing, resting your awareness on the exhales and slowing down your heart rate. Then check in with your body, noticing any areas you’re feeling tension or stress and let it go. Once you’ve centered yourself, review your list of the three main objectives you have for the day and think about how you will feel at the end of the day after you’ve completed those actions.
As you go about your work day, dedicate yourself to being a “single-tasker” instead of the common “multi-tasker.” Not only does multitasking not work (research shows that multitasking limits our cognitive abilities to the equivalent of an 8 year old doing the task), but when you focus on one single task at a time, you are able to get more done. This sounds counterintuitive, but when you slow down you are able to achieve more. Mindfulness at work isn’t about going in slow motion. It’s about stripping away distractions and staying on track with what you said you were going to do with focus and awareness.
When the inevitable stressful emails and meetings come your way throughout the day, practicing mindfulness can help you respond in a more healthy way. One way to do this is to feel gratitude. When we express gratitude, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, two chemicals responsible for making us feel happy and improving our moods. The key is to feel grateful rather than simply saying or listing what you are grateful for. For this mindful exercise, make a list of 3 - 5 things you are grateful for, and elaborate on why you’re grateful for it!
Taking a break outside in nature is a wonderful moment of mindfulness to take in the middle of your work day. Studies show that simply being in nature is related to lower levels of perceived job stress and higher job satisfaction. Nature has a restorative effect on our tired minds, allowing our senses to relax, elevating our energy and improving our focus. Head outside for your coffee break and take in the surroundings. Try to stay off of your phone and instead look around you. Breathe in the fresh air, look at the beauty of the natural world, listen to the sounds, and simply be.
Did you know that meditation provides the nervous system a rest that is five times deeper than sleep? Meditating is so effective that 60 percent of employees who experience anxiety at work show improvement after practicing it. When you are relaxed you are more productive, and studies can confirm that meditation increases employee productivity by 120 percent. Consider starting and/or ending your work day with a short meditation. Here’s how to begin: sit in your desk chair, turn a timer on your phone for 5 - 10 minutes and simply focus on your breath and rest in the awareness you are creating by being still. If you want to focus on something, consider repeating the mantra in your mind, “I am peace, I am joy, I am love” for meditation.
Mindfulness can help you stay sharp and make better decisions as the day goes on. To help keep you on track, set a reminder every couple of hours to take a mindful break. These breaks will help you to be more effective when you go back to work and break the habit of living on autopilot. Each time you practice, you are strengthening the skill of becoming more mindful, and that is no small feat in today’s world.
Once the day ends and you are driving home to your family, turn off your phone or radio for at least 10 minutes and simply be. Let go of any thoughts about the day and focus on your breath. As you do this you will let go of the stresses of the day and help you shift out of work mode and into family mode for the night. I promise that this mindfulness practice will help you to feel more present, calm, and relaxed as you enjoy the rest of your night.
Alisha's book, The Six G.O.L.D. Keys to Well-Being: A Guide to Unlocking A Healthy and Happy Life is out now!
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