As a person who practices yoga on a regular basis, I’m constantly reminded about the importance of mindfulness and staying in the present moment. So, when I heard that a screening of a documentary film about Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh was coming to Minneapolis, I had tickets in my hand faster than you can say Namaste.
Prior to the film, I joked with my theater companion that we would come away completely enlightened with all of our questions answered about living a happy life. Now that I’ve seen it, it turns out I still have some questions. But I do have a fresh new perspective that I can use in all areas of my life, including my job.
In my day-to-day office life, I manage a ton of details for a multitude of projects and I’m constantly at the mercy of deadlines. Sound familiar?
Most people these days – no matter what their profession is – face the challenge of a million things coming at them all at once. And everyone copes with that challenge in a different way. Here are six ideas for using mindfulness to keep your day in order and your sanity intact.
Focus on focusing.
It’s one thing to say you’re going to focus on something, but another to actually do it. If it’s an option, turn off your email notifications when you need to work on an intense task. If that’s not an option, prioritize your tasks and decide which ones need your attention right now. You’ll be surprised to learn that many of them don’t. By having a solid grip on your priorities, it’s easier to focus and not drop what you’re doing just because someone is asking.
If you find yourself in a meeting or conversation where a certain topic is being discussed that doesn’t pertain to you, resist the urge to take your mind somewhere else or to do a quick email check. It’s good practice for staying present, it shows a healthy respect for your peers, and you might even learn something.
Stop and breathe.
When things get particularly nutty, it may seem counter-intuitive to stop what you’re doing to take a few deep breaths, but that’s actually the best time to do it—even if it’s only for a few seconds. It gives you the opportunity to come back to your center and remind yourself that you can only control what’s happening in the present moment. The past is gone and the future, while you can plan for it, also cannot be controlled. If you struggle with remembering this simple practice, set a reminder on your phone or computer that tells you it’s time to stop and breathe. (I use the Mindfullness Bell app.)
Listen to understand.
If you’re engaged in a conversation with a colleague or client, practice the art of listening. Not just so you can respond with the fastest possible solution and get back to the next thing on your list. But to really understand what they are saying with the intent of finding the best solution. It shows compassion and leadership on your part, and could allow for future opportunities to make a positive difference.
Gratitude is at the very core of every mindfulness practice. When we stop in the midst of our day to focus on only the present moment, we can all find something to be grateful for—the most basic of which is breath. Here we are, living and breathing, with all of our basic needs met. Add to that everything else you’ve got going for you (a job, friends, family, hobbies, the sun and the moon, just to name a few) and you can’t help but feel thankful.
Music can be a distraction for some, but for others (like me), it helps drown out all the other noises happening around them. If you’re working on something particularly intense, choose a playlist that you can hear but doesn’t take your mind off the task at hand. For me, that’s something like Spotify’s Acoustic Concentration or Ambient Chill.
The benefits of practicing mindfulness go well beyond the office and can make a positive difference in many other parts of your life, too. And in these tumultuous times, what could be better than finding a little internal peace?