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Published on January 11, 2021

8 Simple Ways To Be Mindful At Work For Better Focus

8 Simple Ways To Be Mindful At Work For Better Focus

It’s easy to get caught up in the world around us—to react to events without thinking about what they mean to us, to judge others without a thought about what may be happening in their world, and to allow distractions to keep us from doing what we should be doing At that moment. It’s this way of reacting to events and situations that lead to many people being stressed out, overwhelmed, and busy.

Becoming more mindful at work means we step back and take a few minutes when events happen and analyze their meaning to us at the moment. It means we don’t react immediately. Instead, we pause, consider the situation, and then act.

A simple example of this can be seen every day. We notice an elderly person struggling to carry a heavy box or shopping bag up a flight of stairs and yet, so many people walk by lost in their own world of stress and worry without even noticing. A mindful person would be immediately aware of the struggling person and stop and offer help because they are aware of their surroundings at the moment and not lost in the past or future.

One of the benefits of being more mindful is that it can help us to be more focused on our work. It can help us ignore distractions and focus on what’s important and not get lost in the trivialities that often lead to that unproductive feeling of being busy and overwhelmed.

By being more aware of our surroundings and knowing what we are trying to accomplish each day, we can evaluate new inputs—whether they are gossiping colleagues or office emergencies—and decide whether they deserve our full attention or not.

How do we take the practice of mindfulness and apply it to our lives? Here are 8 simple ways you can use to become more mindful at work and help you better focus.

1. Start With a Plan

Most of the reasons why we find it difficult to focus while at work is because we do not start the day with a plan. When you do not have a plan for the day, you are going to be influenced by events and any distractions that come your way.

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Being more mindful at work means knowing what you want to accomplish for the day and having a plan to make it happen. But more importantly, it means you have taken some time to think about what is important (and what is not) and evaluate what needs to happen to get the important things done.

Now, your plan for the day does not need to be detailed. It’s simply asking, “what do I want to accomplish today?” That could be to finish a report you have been laboring over for a few weeks. It could be to deliver an outstanding presentation or resolve an issue with a difficult customer.

The key is stepping back at the end of the day and asking yourself what you want to get done tomorrow and writing it down somewhere you will see the next day when you start your work.

2. Begin the Day With a Review of Your Plan

Part of becoming more mindful at work is being aware of what you are trying to accomplish and focusing your energies on accomplishing it. One way to do this is to take the plan you made the previous day, look at it, and visualize completing your plan.

This only takes a few minutes, but you would want to do it in a quiet place, reviewing your list, closing your eyes, and, for a few minutes, imagining yourself completing those tasks. Imagine how you will feel once you have finished and then, slowly opening your eyes and starting the day.

3. Have a Daily Routine to Start the Day

There is a lot written about morning and evening routines, and there’s a good reason. When you begin and end the day in the same way, you put yourself in the right frame of mind to begin and end your day.

Being more mindful at work is all about being more aware of yourself and others and having a set of daily routines that will put you in the right “state” to be aware of what is going on around you. Routines help you be more aware of how you are feeling. You will notice this if you are feeling stressed or tired, and you can ask yourself why you feel that way. You notice differences in the way you feel.

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For example, if you start the day with exercise and you notice you are not putting in as much effort as you normally do, you can ask yourself: why? Are you tired? Are you stressed? Is there something on your mind? Asking these questions allows you to be more mindful about your physical and mental condition and you can then take steps to rectify whatever it is that is bothering you.

4. Do One Thing at a Time

By now, you should have realized that ‘multitasking’ is a myth and does not work.[1] When we multitask, we are not really doing two things simultaneously. What we are doing is task-switching, which means our brain is moving from one focus to another at high speed. This is an incredibly inefficient way of working and rapidly leads to tiredness, an inability to focus for long periods of time, and a reduction in our willpower.

Multitasking also means we stop being present because we are trying to focus on too many things at once and when that happens, we are likely to miss important details and make mistakes. Instead, take one piece of work and work on that to the exclusion of everything else. Don’t have multiple windows open on your computer, and only have the window you need to do the work you have chosen at that particular time.

Once you finish that work, take a short break—move—and when you return to your place of work, start the next item you want to work on. When you get into this practice, you will soon find yourself becoming more focused and more mindful about what you are doing.

5. Close Down Email and Other Forms of Communication

If you really want to become more mindful at work, you need to do whatever it takes to reduce your distractions. This means turning off notifications and only opening your email and other communication tools when you have decided you want to work on your communications.

One thing we need to understand is that if there really was something urgent and that required our attention immediately, nobody would use email or Slack to tell you. They would either walk over to your workstation or phone you. If your house was on fire, your neighbor would not email or Slack message you to tell you. They would use a more immediate form of communication.

The same applies to your work. Stop worrying about angry bosses and upset clients. They are very rare and remember, you are employed to do your work, not to be the fastest at responding to messages and emails. If an issue was genuinely urgent, you would quickly hear about it.

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6. Give Yourself Some Alone Time Every Day

The world is very distracting and demanding. If it is not our work colleagues and customers, it is an advertisement and NEWS that are trying to get our attention and cause us to react in positive and negative ways.

With all these distractions, it is very hard to get a moment of peace, and yet, if you want to be better focused, you need some time each day for quiet reflection away from all those demands and noise.

Fifteen to twenty minutes alone in a quiet room—or better yet, in nature—will give you the time to reflect, to turn off, and enjoy the peace around you. Doing this will help you become more aware of what is going on around you and how you are feeling and brings some much-needed perspective to your life.

7. Listen

And when I say “listen,” I mean truly listen. Too often, we are not really listening. Instead, we are thinking of the next thing to say or being judgmental about what the other person is saying. Stop this. It does you no good and is not helpful to the person you are talking with or yourself.

When you stop judging and start listening, you will soon see another perspective. You may not agree with that perspective or opinion, but remember that is all it is—a perspective or opinion. You are not duty-bound to agree with them or change another person’s viewpoint, but you will find yourself better understanding why a person thinks that way if you stop trying to change their opinions and instead, listen to what they have to say.

I know this is hard to do because we naturally want other people to agree with our view of the world. But part of what makes humans so unique is we all have a different view of the world, and that is what makes us special. It would not be a nice world if everyone shared the same view of the world and events.

8. Practice Meditation

Giving yourself some time to meditate each day will help you become more mindful and more focused. Meditation is a form of training for the mind to stop thinking and just be.

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Meditating each day does not have to be done for long. I’ve always found ten minutes every day works for me. Others prefer to do two sessions a day fifteen to twenty minutes in the morning and evening.

How long and how frequently you meditate is not relevant. Just doing a few minutes each day will help improve your focus. By training your mind to stop and just focus on your breathing or the sound of the refrigerator,+ you develop a powerful ability to focus.

Final Thoughts

It can be very difficult to focus on the “always-on” world we live in today. But if you want to perform at your very best and be more mindful at work, be aware of the needs of the people around you, and live a fulfilled, stress-free life.

Becoming more mindful about yourself and others is a great way to become more focused, less stressed, and ultimately, a lot happier.

More Tips on How to Be More Mindful at Work

Featured photo credit: Bench Accounting via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Carl Pullein

Dedicated to helping people to achieve their maximum potential through better time management and productivity.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2021

How to Not Get Distracted: 10 Practical Tips to Sharpen Your Focus

How to Not Get Distracted: 10 Practical Tips to Sharpen Your Focus

You sit at your desk, ready to finally get some work done. “Okay, lets do this,” you think to yourself. You scroll over to Word (or Excel, or Office, etc.) and open up a fresh document. You have some idea of what needs to be done, but what happens next?

You write a few words down but just can’t stay focused. Then you say “Maybe I should wake myself up with something fun.” You go to Facebook, 20 minutes gone. Then comes Youtube, 60 minutes gone. Before you know it, lunchtime has come and half the day is gone.

Does this seem familiar? Do you ever find yourself wasting your day?

Well it doesn’t have to be this way, all you need to do is focus on finishing this article to find out how to not get distracted easily.

But before we move on to the tips, here’re some important notes you need to know:

  • Avoiding distraction is tough. You’re not alone when it comes to distractions. It’s not easy staying on task when you need to work for hours at a time, but some people are able to do it. The question is: why them and not you?
  • You were never taught how to focus. It’s funny how all throughout our school days we were never taught HOW to learn and be focused, even though that’s all we did. It was just assumed, and ultimately it was hit or miss on whether or not you ended up knowing how to do those things at all.
  • The tools to help master your ability to focus. Since everyone’s left to their own devices, it’s up to you to find ways to master your focus ability. That’s what these tips are for, so you can finally stay focused and on track with what we want to accomplish for ourselves.

So without further ado, let’s get started. 

1. Keep Your Vision and Goals in Mind

First things first, why do you even need to focus? Do you want to become a skilled guitar player? Do you want to write a novel? Do you want to start working from home?

Think about it.

Knowing why we need to stay focused can help us push through the tough and tedious parts of accomplishing our goals. That’s when our ability to focus is really tested and when it’s most needed.

2. Reduce the Chaos of Your Day by Focusing on 2 to 3 Important Tasks

If you have 20 tasks you need done everyday how effective do you think your focus ability will be? Terrible, right?

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You can’t expect to do those things with sophistication if you’re too scatterbrained to focus. You need to break it down to the essentials.

Focus on only doing 2-3 important tasks a day (even one is okay), but no more than that. It’s all you need to take steps towards accomplishing your goals. Slower is much better than giving up early because you took on too much, too early.

3. Do Those Tasks as Soon as Possible

In order to make sure you get those 2 to 3 tasks done, you need to do them early. This means as soon as you wake up, you’re already plotting how to do them.

So get up, use the bathroom, eat breakfast, and do it (Yes, BEFORE work is the best time to do it).

It’s tough, but waiting to do them only invites distraction to take over. Those distractions WILL come, and they will drain your willpower. This makes working on your goals harder to do, so don’t wait do work on your goals, do them as early as possible.

4. Focus on Only the Smallest Part of Your Work at a Time

An easy way to kill your focus is to see a goal for the big giant accomplishment that it is. Most goals will at least take a few weeks to months to accomplish, and knowing that can make it feel like it’ll take FOREVER to do.

This will cause you to do one of two things:

  • You become discouraged because the goal is too big; or
  • You fantasize about what it’ll feel like to achieve the goal

Either way is terrible for your focus and always a potential problem when focusing on the big picture or using visualization.

So what should you do? Focus on doing a very small, minimum amount of work instead.

For example, which seems easier:

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Writing 200 words per day or writing a minimum of 2 sentences per day?

20 pushups per day or a minimum of 1 pushup per day?

The key here is to use minimums. Chances are you’ll push past them.

Eventually your minimum will increase, and you’ll slowly improve your ability to stay focused on the bigger tasks.

5. Visualize Yourself Working

I briefly mentioned in tip #4 that visualization techniques can hurt you more than help you sometimes. But there is a proper way of using visualization, and it’s by visualizing yourself actually WORKING (not as if you’ve succeeded already).

Champion runners use this technique to great effect, usually by working backwards. They imagine themselves winning at first, then they act out the whole process in reverse, feeling and visualizing each step all the way to the beginning.

A quicker and more relevant way to apply this would be to imagine yourself doing a small part of the task at hand.

For instance, if you need to practice your guitar but it’s all the way across the room (let’s assume maximum laziness for the sake of this example), what should you do?

First, imagine standing up (really, think of the sensation of getting up and then do it). If you really imagined it, visualized and felt the act of standing up, then acting on that feeling will be easy.

Then repeat the visualization process with each step till you have that guitar in hand and you’re playing it. The process of focusing so intently on each step distracts you from how much you don’t want to do something, and the visualizations “ready your body” for each step you need done.

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All you need to do is apply this process to whatever it is you need to focus on, just start with the smallest motion you need to do.

6. Control Your Internal Distractions

Internal distractions are one of those problems you can’t really run away from. You need to find ways to prepare your mind for work, and find simple ways to keep it from straying to non-essential thoughts as well.

A good way to prime your mind for work is to have a dedicated work station. If you always work in a specific area, then your mind will associate that area with work related thoughts.

Simple enough, right? When you take breaks make sure to leave your work station, that way you’ll know when you’re “allowed” to let your thoughts roam free as well.

Deadlines are useful here also (use Pomodoro method for example, see tip #9). This method helps keep your mind from wandering around since you’ve got that looming deadline coming along.

Ultimately though, silencing those unwanted thoughts is all about getting some traction going. So instead of focusing on what’s happening internally, focus getting something done (anything!). Once you do that, you’ll see that all your thoughts will be about finishing your task.

7. Remove External Distractions

This tip is straightforward, just get away from things that distract you.

Is the television a distraction? Work in another room. Are the kids distracting you? Get up earlier and work before they wake up. Is the Internet distracting? Turn off the modem.

It’s usually obvious what you should do, but you still shouldn’t overlook this piece of advice.

8. Skip What You Don’t Know

This is a tip I don’t see often enough, if you hit a snag in your work then come back to it later. Focus your attention on what you CAN do, keep working “mindlessly” at all costs. All this means is that you should focus on the easy parts first.

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Eventually you can come back to the more difficult parts, and hopefully by then it’ll have come to you or you’ll have built up enough momentum that it won’t break your focus if you work on it.

9. Improve Your Discipline With Focus Practice

There’s a few focus exercises you can do to improve your overall discipline.

The first one is meditation, which is basically the definition of focus in practice. Think about it, you’re literally just sitting there doing nothing. It’s a great method for building focus ability, de-stressing, and giving you greater control over your emotions. You should definitely give meditation a shot.

The second exercise is the Pomodoro method. These are basically “focus sprints,” and each one is followed by a solid break. Like real sprints, you’ll get better and better at doing them over time. Each interval improves your ability to stay focused when it matters, so it’s more than worth your time to try this out.

10. Manage Your Momentum

Momentum is like a discipline lubricant‒it helps ease the process of sticking with goals. That’s why I think it’s important that we never take true breaks from our goals; we end up losing momentum and relying on discipline to get back on track (not an easy thing to do).

This means each and everyday we need to do something significant to further our goals (yes, even weekends and holidays). And when I say “significant,” I don’t necessarily mean a big task‒but rather, any task that brings us closer to our goals.

For instance, if your goal is to be a freelance writer, then write one single pitch on a weekend. If your goal is get healthy, then go for a short 5 minute walk even on Christmas day.

Nothing big, nothing crazy, only stuff that is significant enough to contribute to the success of your overall goal.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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