When you’re at a retreat, everything there is designed to help you immerse yourself into the present moment: the settings, the program, the food, the atmosphere. But then you return to work. Full inbox, a million tasks screaming for your attention, phones ringing… How do you remain mindful in this environment?
Focus on one task at a time
Ability to multi-task might be a requirement you’ll find in many job ads, but the reality is that only about 2% of us can do it well. For the rest, switching between tasks can cost us up to 40 per cent of our productive time. By paying attention to one task at a time, you’ll not only bring more mindfulness into your day, but you’ll notice that you’re becoming more productive. Make it easy for yourself to single-task by eliminating distractions as much as possible. Disable your alerts, put your mobile phone on silent, only open the application you’re currently working with and nothing else.
Focus on the person in front of you
During a busy workday, it can be tempting to see the people you come in contact with as just another customer, phone call or email that you need to deal with, and the faster you do it, the earlier you get to go home. You’ve probably been on the receiving end of this type of communications many times, and it doesn’t feel good. Instead, remind yourself that there is a real person in each interaction and give them your full attention. If you’re in conversation, really listen without simultaneously thinking what you’re going to say next. If you’re writing an email, craft each sentence with care and respect.
Every hour or two take a break to focus on your breath, have a drink, notice the world around you or go for a walk. Until this turns into a habit, you’ll need to be reminded to take a break. Your phone alarm probably comes to mind first, when you think of reminders, but it may ring at the wrong time and distract you from your task or conversation. For a less intrusive reminder, put a note or picture on your desk, or find a colleague, who also wants to be more mindful, and agree to remind each other. Support and accountability make building a new habit easier and more fun.
Don’t aim for perfection
Sometimes you’ll be focused and peaceful with little effort. Other times, things will go wrong. You’ll forget to focus on the present moment, you’ll lose your calm and it’ll feel like the world is falling apart. We all feel like that sometimes, and it doesn’t mean that you’ve failed at your mindfulness practice. Instead of being hard on yourself, simply take a moment to breathe. Notice your emotions without judging them and let them flow through you. This might be all it takes for everything to seem more manageable again.
Tatiana is a freelance writer and a mum of three living in Sydney. After a 10-years’ break, she has just returned to full-time work. She is still finding time for yoga, meditation and mindfulness, which is making a huge difference to her sanity and her enjoyment of life.