What is Mindfulness Anyway?
According to Ellen Langer, author of several groundbreaking books on Mindfulness, the term Mindfulness is the opposite of Mindlessness, which involves automatic, habitual thought that is most frequently associated with behaviors of people who are distracted, hurried, multi-tasking, and/or overloaded.
Conversely, mindfulness means being continually aware and dialed into the moment and those participating in our moments. It is an "attunement to today's demands to avoid tomorrow's difficulties". This mindset creates an openness to new information (creativity), an awareness of multiple perspectives (empathy and insight), and a quiet mental room in which to explore and examine what would otherwise be performed on autopilot (critical thinking).
Adopting a habit of mindfulness in the workplace simply means approaching everything on your list and in your day in a thoughtful, objective, and holistic (tasks/goals and people/relationships) manner. It requires that you mentally "check in" on what is happening within yourself and around you. Here are 5 ways to make 2018 your most mindful year yet.
1. Check Your Pace
There are a lot of problem solvers out there who go right into fix-it mode. This approach gets results and therefore reinforces a mindless pace that is riddled with the blind spots of an overly outcome-centric approach. To be mindful doesn't mean being slow or ineffective. Rather, it is a mental check-in that thoroughly assesses the situation to determine the most balanced and effective method and pace for accomplishing the task at hand. Mindfulness is an assessment prior to an action. Instead of moving at the speed of the culture or others demands, mindfulness provides a stop gap that helps us focus, increases our energy and allows us to more skillfully apply our talents. Without this mindful pace check-in, we miss important details and fail to understand root causes, almost guaranteeing a reoccurrence of the issue. Mindlessly, we might actually make the problem worse.
2. Check Your Control
Keeping up with an intense workload is a common cause of mindlessness. Conversely, practicing mindfulness snaps your brain out of autopilot by reexamining everything you had previously accepted as part of the necessary evils of the job. Simply put, how much are you managing your environment and how much is it managing you? It's not a matter of controlling your time; it's merely a matter of learning HOW to do it. A good technique for creating a mindful work pace is to start by assessing how you currently schedule your days. Are you booking yourself too tightly or committing to unrealistic deadlines? Push back on timelines that don't feel balanced or necessary and be sure to schedule chunks of time in between meetings to process and plan around what you've heard. (For more info on this click here)
3. Check Your Plate
Should everything that is on your list actually be on your list? This is where you check-in that you are asking for help when needed, not assuming the problems of others instead of coaching them to do it themselves, and having the confidence to push back on a task or deadline that either doesn't belong with you or will cause undue stress to accomplish it in the time allotted. Are you delegating enough? Stay mindful of what you take on, what resources you'll need, and what commitments you'll need others to make for you to be set up for success, not stress. (For more info on this click here)
4. Check Your Engagement
Studies show that 60% of the US workplace is disengaged. Non-engaged employees have essentially ‘checked out.’ They sleepwalk through workdays. They put in time but don’t approach their work with energy or passion. You can imagine how this results in a mindless approach to work and coworkers. One of the EQ skills is Self-Actualization. This is feeling fulfilled by the work we do, a sense that we are utilizing our strengths and talents to add value. If you want to be more mindful, ask yourself why your work is unfulfilling and what it would take to re-engage you? Consider if your motivation drivers are being met and if not, have a conversation with your manager about what you need.
5. Check Your Attention
One huge benefit of increasing your mindfulness is your memory will improve. Being fully present in meetings allows your brain to focus and process what is happening in a more permanent way. To keep yourself attentive, make mental notes of what people are wearing, what body language they are presenting and the interpersonal dynamics of the room. Notice details that you would otherwise miss if you were multi-tasking.
If you struggle to find the time to think, then take this opportunity to stop and awaken to another option. A mindful mindset is counter to our modern world and will take practice. Start by taking one thing on your plate today and mindfully assess it with fresh eyes. Less stress, more fun, collaboration, and meaningful impact....you never know what else you might discover.