I’m fairly sure most of us grew up hearing the old refrain “pay attention” or maybe it was another childhood favorite “mind what you’re doing.” And depending on what part of the world you grew up in I’m sure you heard a few other gems whose goal was to get you to stop fidgeting or giving into distractions. Now many years later companies all over the world are encouraging their employees to avoid distractions and stop fidgeting, though hopefully they are not including the dreaded finger wagging with their suggestion.
The science of paying attention and focusing is now routinely called mindfulness practice and a proliferation of courses, seminars and meditation rooms have sprung up in both large and small businesses.
The goal is two fold, first of course is to increase productivity and second is to facilitate a stronger team atmosphere through creating a more relaxed and focused (read: happier) employee. Mindfulness it turns out is one of the simplest and most cost effective way to accomplish both goals and corporations everywhere are if not ecstatic at the results at least firmly behind the programs.
But businesses are finding there are significant Benefits To Mindfulness at Work that go well beyond productivity and having happier employees. Of course having a more productive and happier workforce is nothing to sneeze at.
Mindfulness Teaches Us How To Shift
To be human is to think and by that I mean a lot of thinking. Just below our conscious awareness there is a torrent of thoughts flowing one after another, our stream of thinking can best be imagined as a waterfall cascading containing a huge amount of energy. For the most part we are unaware of all the thoughts emerging in our mind and then disappearing again, but rest assured the torrent of thoughts continues.
The sheer amount of thinking going on tends to regularly distract us from what we are doing at the moment, that distraction pulls us into memories of childhood, things we need to do, who were are angry with and dozens of other things that have nothing to do with the project we are working on or the conversation we are trying to concentrate on with another person.
Mindfulness is not about stopping all the thinking going on in our minds, mindfulness is about becoming more aware of our thinking in the first place. I know this sounds a bit counter intuitive but I assure you it’s not.
Here’s the heart of the matter, the more we can identify something as a thought the easier it is to stay focused on the project or conversation in front of us. When we know we are being distracted we have a choice to attach to the distraction or to not attach to the distraction.
Here’s an example: Say your working a new project that you don’t know much about so you really need to focus, as you’re working you start thinking about the two couples who are coming to your home for dinner tonight and you still have to pick up a few things at the store before you go home to cook for them. In your mind you go over all the details and boom, ten minutes or more have just gone by without you realizing it.
In the above example you lost your focus and this happens to us often throughout the day. After practicing mindfulness for a while you would have been able to identify the distracting thought and refocused your attention on the project.
It works like this. You’re working and a thought pops into your awareness, instead of grabbing the thought you say to yourself “thinking” which is your key to letting it go and get back to working on the project. Mindfulness practice takes us from being in auto-thinking mode to manual-shifting mode where we are more in control. Does that make sense? If not please send us a note or sign-up for the forum and ask for more information.
Check out the Benefits To Mindfulness at Work Infographic below.
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