We believe that mindfulness is one of the essential keys to unlocking leadership mastery, but we know how hard it can be sometimes to incorporate a long practice into a busy day. You don’t always have time to do a relaxing yoga flow or a 30 minute breathing meditation before work, but that shouldn’t stop you from incorporating smaller mindful practices into your day. By doing these small, and seemingly trivial, practices you can transform how you work, and how you move through the rest of your life-one small step at a time.
Here are a few suggestions to refresh, renew and return to your breath throughout your busy day:
1. Set an Intention for your day
This may sound a little cheesy, but it makes a big difference when you decide what kind of day you’re going to have and commit your energy to that intention. Instead of immediately looking at your smart phone, set an intention for your day with a few deep breaths. This will ensure that you wake up in an engaged, more present way, and will give you a grounded place to pause and return to as the day becomes busier. Also, as you start to live out your intentions they will start to impact those around you in positive, life giving ways.
2. Take a Mindful Walk
It’s really easy to get caught up at your desk and forget to move, which isn’t ideal. In fact, a recent study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, found that standing up and walking around for five minutes every hour during the workday could lift your mood, and combat lethargy without reducing focus and attention. Additionally, frequent, brief walking breaks were more effective at improving well-being than a single, longer walk before work, which is good news for busy people. You can reap many benefits from simply walking to get your afternoon coffee instead of sending your assistant to grab it for you, and if you can get outside that’s even better. Take a minute to notice all the sounds and smells of nature so that you can return to your desk refreshed and present.
3. Take Small Presence Pauses to Mentally Arrive
It can become really stressful when you’re constantly having to shift gears if you’re not giving yourself a moment to renew and reconnect. Next time your schedule’s jam packed with back to back meetings and phone calls, give yourself a minute to return to your breath and connect with the present moment, so that you can mentally arrive for the new task.
Try this: Take 5 Deep Breaths, saying this mantra: “Breathing in, I know that I’m breathing in. Breathing out, I know that I’m breathing out.”
4. Resist the urge to multi-task
Our daily life involves so many distractions; we’re constantly struggling to check things off our infinite to-do list and focusing on only one thing can seem impossible when you have a million other things in the back of your mind. However, trying to do everything all at once is ineffective and can end up costing you at work. According to Julie Morgenstern, a productivity expert and bestselling author of Time Management from the Inside Out,
“It has been scientifically demonstrated that the brain cannot effectively or efficiently switch between tasks, so you lose time. It takes four times longer to recognize new things so you’re not saving time; multitasking actually costs time. You also lose time because you often make mistakes. If you’re multitasking and you send an email and accidentally “reply all” and the person you were talking about is on the email, it’s a big mistake. In addition, studies have shown that we have a much lower retention rate of what we learn when multitasking, which means you could have to redo the work or you may not do the next task well because you forgot the information you learned. Everyone’s complaining of memory issues these days – they’re symptoms of this multitasking epidemic. Then, of course, there’s the rudeness factor, which doesn’t help develop strong relationships with others. “
Try this: Next time you’re working on a task, turn off the sound notification on your phone for your email and only focus on completing the task at hand. Don’t be tempted to check your email in the middle of it and put your phone out of sight for a while to prevent any distractions. This can be a hard thing to do but by setting yourself up with less distractions, you’ll be more productive and present.
5. Prioritize to prevent overwhelm
Making your to-do list can be overwhelming when you’re faced with all of the tiny tasks and big projects that you need to do, all at once, and you can end up frantically bouncing from task to task without ever efficiently finishing anything. However, by making a “master” list of your weekly to-dos and narrowing those down into smaller priority lists for each day, you can more easily tackle a daunting to-do list and be more present with the tasks at hand. Your daily priority list should include up to three things that you need to accomplish that day to minimize distractions from the “master” list. Whenever another task pops up and tries to take your attention from your current priority, simply add it to the “master” to-do list to remember to do it later.
6. Turn it off at the end of the day
One of the most important things is being able to check out from work when it’s time to check out. This can be really challenging, especially for people in leadership positions, because they always have something they “could” be doing, and modern technology gives us the chance to always be doing something anywhere. However, your brain and body need a chance to recharge in order to perform at their best, and you have to respect that if you want to perform your best and give your staff (and family, for that matter) the presence and attention they deserve. While it’s easy to keep responding to emails late into the night, you have to give yourself some boundaries and allow yourself to be present at home, with the people you love. It will make a much bigger difference in the long run than replying to that email will.
As you can see, mindfulness is available to everyone all the time and by taking advantage of the small opportunities throughout the day to practice awareness and presence, you can learn to make the most out of every moment and become more in control of your life.