What is mindfulness? It’s the practice of focusing attention on yourself and concentrating on what’s happening in the present. In today’s digital workplace there are so many constant demands for our attention from so many different digital platforms.
It’s no wonder we’re all feeling so overwhelmed. According to mindfulness expert Bill Williams, who is a renowned thought leader in performance psychology, the benefits of mindfulness at work lead to improved mental physical and emotional health.
This can pay dividends in the workplace where distraction is a daily (and expected) occurrence. Research by UC Irvine suggests that it takes on average 23 minutes and 15 seconds to recover from a single distraction. Think about how many times you get distracted at work. That’s a lot of time wasted, which means impaired productivity, and increased costs.
So, what are some of the benefits of mindfulness at work?
Improve alliances by paying attention
Nobody is suggesting you form a rebel alliance with your coworkers and take down the Dark Lord (your boss). Unless you want to, of course.
What mindfulness can do is allow you to become a better listener, and as a result, a better communicator, leading to improved interpersonal relationships.
When you approach interactions from a place of mindfulness rather than prejudging how interactions should go, you notice details that you can use to your advantage.
Robert from Accounting gets grumpy towards the end of the fiscal month, so maybe it’s not the best time to mention you over-expensed a filet mignon steak at your latest client meeting when the budget was more geared towards Chipotle. Or maybe your star performer needs some recognition after working flat-out for two months.
Less distraction means better performance
In a classic example of overcoming distraction, Luke Skywalker is learning to use the Force on board the Millenium Falcon with Obi-Wan guiding him. Han Solo is mocking Luke. In fact, he defiantly states there is no mystical energy that controls his destiny. Luke proves him wrong by blocking lasers directed at him, using just the power of his mind.
Both Luke and Hans could be right. The process of mindfulness according to Bill Williams is “self-directed. The individual must train themselves not only to be present, but to focus that attention and center or ground themselves. They can then direct that focused energy into optimal performance.”
Less Stress: Calm the Falcon down, Kylo
Which leads on to the third way of using mindfulness at work: managing stress.
Stress is the body’s way of telling you something is wrong. In medical terms, stress is the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional responses. After all, stress is a normal part of life, and learning to manage it can be incredibly advantageous.
In other words, control your thoughts and observations to control your stress. Comparing the first time when Luke met Darth Vader in Cloud City to the final battle, the difference is in the concentration (and of course, he has a replacement hand).
In the workplace, reacting calmly or not can be the difference between a career-enhancing move or a career-ending one.
Stay grounded and thrive at work
Bill Williams stresses that mindfulness isn’t learnt in a day. It starts with slowly becoming aware of your surroundings, your breathing, your thoughts, and your presence.
If you’re new to mindfulness, you can make small, measurable goals to work towards. These can be as simple as working on a specific goal for a certain period, not checking your email, or centering yourself by practicing deep, mindful breathing for five to ten minutes a day.
As Yoda says, you already know what you need. In your career that means deciding what you’re going to do with the tools you’ve been given. Mindfulness is one way to achieve optimal performance.