Mindfulness and Focus are hot topics right now among the Leadership and Management communities. I get questions now and again from clients and colleagues who recognize the value but don’t know where to begin.
I understand. The word “mindfulness” can conjure up all kinds of images, usually involving people in business attire sitting cross-legged on boardroom tables. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course, but crossing that chasm from myth to fact can be a bit much to overcome in one giant leap.
Luckily, there are some small, deceptively simple steps you can make toward becoming more mindful at work that don’t involve a yoga mat or the skills of a professional contortionist.
Here are 15 things you can do starting tomorrow to introduce a little mindfulness and focus into your day.
Here they are:
1. Start the Day Early. Begin the day slowly, before the Sun comes up, to experience the sunrise over a cup of tea and a gadgetless, wi-fi-less quietude. Your day is about to get quite hectic. Enjoy the morning pause.
2. Take a Walk. A brief early morning walk in your neighborhood or nearby park, whether you do other forms of exercise or not, gives you time to welcome the day on your own terms. Take your phone for emergencies, but don’t surf or read emails. Leave all other gadgets at home.
3. Enjoy an Actual Breakfast. Don’t gulp a bowl of cereal, or blend a protein shake, or eat over the sink, and call it breakfast. Sit down at the kitchen table and serve yourself a warm meal. Notice the colors on your plate, the taste of each bite, and appreciate its nourishing goodness.
4. Take a Different Path. Change your commute and enjoy the new scenery. Take a detour, or stop at a convenience store you don’t normally visit on the way to work.
5. Park Somewhere Else. Reserved parking? Ignore it. Park where you’ve never parked before, or get off one stop before or after your usual stop and walk the rest of the way (if it isn’t too far or prohibitive).
6. Greet Everyone. Say hello, offer a friendly smile, and look everyone in the eye as you do so. Resist the urge to rush into the office and take a moment to talk with someone. Ask them about their weekend, their family, their interests.
7. Pass the Coffee-Mate to your Office Mate. Not having done steps 1-6 like you have, they probably haven’t enjoyed a single moment of “presence” today. Invite them to join you by handing them a warm cup of coffee and offering a sincere expression of your appreciation for their being here. A danish wouldn’t hurt, either.
8. Plan Ahead. Keep a To-Do list or checklist readily available, prepped the day or evening before. Block segments of time for your most important or energy-consuming tasks first, then fit in the smaller, lesser tasks around them. Keep some in-between time for 5-10 minute walks every couple of hours, and don’t forget to take 2-minute breaks every half-hour to stand or stretch at your desk.
9. Read Email Sparingly. Don’t make email the first thing you do each morning. Instead, read your email once at mid-morning and once in the mid-afternoon. Encourage more phone calls, office visits, and walk-and-talks instead of emails. Get to know the whole person, not just their typing skills. People may complain at first, but let them know your reading schedule and ask that they visit or call when it’s truly urgent.
10. Keep your Office Door Open. Listen to the sounds outside your office, and recognize the rhythms and routines that occur each day. Notice the sounds of harmony, the sounds of chaos, and all the sounds in-between. Notice the ebb and flow of productivity. If you already work in an open space, stop periodically and listen to the sounds around you, not as disruption in your environment, but as the noise of a team busy at work helping one another out.
11. Call Someone. Reach out to a direct-report or colleague you haven’t spoken to in at least 48 hours. Stay in touch with your people and your network. You don’t need a reason to chat, and it doesn’t always have to be about the work. Find out who they are and what is important to them. Call them by name when they answer and keep doing so.
12. Listen Attentively. Leaders and team veterans resolve issues, solve problems, identify solutions, and offer advice. Everyone coming to see you needs something. Welcome the interruption. Find out what they truly need and want to say to another human being and listen to the story behind the story. Suspend all thoughts of quick solutions and avoid the internal dialogue. Just listen, and listen as if your beloved mentor or best friend from high school was speaking to you.
13. Watch Your Tongue. Speak far less than you listen, and always make sure that anything you do say meets the T.A.N.K. Test: is it True, is it Appropriate, is it Needed, and is it Kind? Speak for their benefit, not yours. If it meets the test, wait until the person has finished all they had to say, and then share your thoughts.
14. Watch Your Habits. What pet peeves do you have? What upsets you most at work? What makes you uncomfortable? What weakens your own ability to lead effectively? What do you do when things go haywire? Notice your own actions and reactions, make mental notes, and set it in your mind to do better tomorrow.
15. Eat a C.A.S.H. lunch: with a Colleague, Away from the office, Slow enough to actually enjoy it, and make it Healthy.
A Bonus Step
Here is where all those little steps you took throughout the day add up to one giant leap for mindfulness.
16. As you close your laptop and prepare to head home, reflect on the amount of mindful, thoughtful, focused attention you gave to everyone you came across, every task you tackled, and every pause you gave toward accomplishing one or more items on this list. You don’t need a perfect score, and there is no pass or fail. Simply make mental note of your progress and strive to do a little better tomorrow. Then, drive home without reaching for the radio knob or your hands-free headset, and enjoy the ride.
Give this a try for a week and let me know how it went. I’ll be waiting to hear from you.
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Author: José Cruz, Jr.
José is a leadership consultant, corporate trainer, and executive coach with two decades of senior leadership experience in American higher education. Visit Jose & his team at http://SoteloCoach.com