The practice of mindfulness is increasingly accepted in the workplace as a way to increase your focus, reduce your stress, and think more clearly. Google, Target, and BlackRock have offered mindfulness training for years. Coach Pete Carroll even hired a meditation coach in 2012 when the Seattle Seahawks were headed to the Super Bowl (they had only been there once before) to give his team a competitive advantage (they won, BTW). And you know a concept has gone mainstream when there’s a Mindfulness at Work for Dummies book!
So what is it? Psychology Today defines mindfulness as “a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.” Just look around any meeting and you’ll see how many people are not in the moment—they’re checking their phones, texting, whispering to their colleagues. Many people have lost the ability to focus because of the sheer number of distractions available.
Jeremy Hunter, who teaches at the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management at Claremont Graduate University outside Los Angeles, believes mindfulness is “fundamental to how work gets done these days. Basically, that’s what work is, attention.” Improving the quality of attention is the key to productivity.
A quick way to start practicing is to spend 5 minutes at the beginning and end of your day with your eyes closed and your mind emptied. Focus on your breathing and check in with yourself to see how you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally. It is difficult at first—and you won’t believe how long 5 minutes feels—but gets easier over time. That simple practice will help you develop your ability to focus. If your company doesn’t offer mindfulness programs, find a book on the practice—for example, Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD and founding Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School has written a number of books on the practice. Or you can always pick up the Dummies book!
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