Strategies for Being Mindful at Work

Kyla Holcombe, Ph.D., Insights Consultant & Organizational PsychologistUncategorizedLeave a Comment

To better understand what helps people be mindful at work, we reached out to some of our clients, partners, and local business leaders to ask:

  1. What helps you stay present or be mindful at work?
  2. What is your biggest derailer of staying mindful or being present at work?

Here is what we learned . . .

Krista Carter, Analytics and Safety Manager at OtterBox, replied, “There are a few things that help me stay mindful at work! First, I think it’s critical that I have a very clear understanding of myself and my work style. I know that I work well in the morning, so to make sure I stay present in meetings or big tasks, I prioritize them for the morning hours. I also know that if I’m feeling drained or tired, a walk outside (even five minutes!) can quickly reinvigorate me. My colleagues are actually also really helpful at keeping me present and mindful, and we all facilitate a culture of mindfulness by trying to not schedule meetings over lunch or late hours, and we know if someone is very busy or not totally present because of work or personal issues, we reschedule meetings or shift to accommodate others. A few of the ladies I work with and I have some St. John’s Wort oil that we got to keep in our work area to put on if we’re ever feeling stressed, anxious, or not quite centered. All of these things are very helpful!

One of my biggest derailers is my own brain! It’s very easy to interpret something without having all of the information or facts, and letting your brain run with stories until emotions run high and you’re distracted from work. It’s a natural reaction, and it does take away from my ability to be present, although I’m also actively working on stopping my brain from running into those thought circles until it’s appropriate. Colleagues can also be derailers. Not everyone is always on the same page as you, so sometimes when you’re in work mode they’re in play mode, and vice versa. I try to be mindful of my own impact on others because of this as well. Finally, it can be hard to be mindful or present (for me) when I do the same thing all the time. Getting involved in a variety of projects, and also engaging in both work and play, allows me to switch gears and re-energize my brain when I start to get bored of a certain task.”

Here is what Jason Buehler, Head Brewer at Denver Beer Coshared: “To stay mindful and on task at work, I make a short, doable list of the things that need to get done that day. I still use post-it notes and put them on my laptop in order of the high, medium and low priority. When I have something high priority that I have to get done that day and I know it will take time, I stay away from the office and work from home. If I absolutely have to go the office, I hide in the creepy conference room where no one will find me! (I think they are on to me…). Also, if I have important stuff to get done I might go the whole day without checking my email. If something is really urgent my team knows they can reach me by phone or text.

One of my biggest derailers is drinking beer! Tasting the beers is an important part of my job, and when I’m in the tap room I end up talking with our brewers about things that don’t otherwise come up. Connecting with my team is so important, but often ends up taking longer than I think it will. So, I have to remember to carefully plan when I visit the taprooms – if I know there are several beers coming out throughout the week, I wait until Friday to do it all at once or try to visit later in the day.”

John Alderman, CEO of DBC Irrigation Supply, gave his perspective: “For me, the biggest derailer of being present at work is the constant barrage of emails and texts that I (and most people) receive during the workday.  In my case it has become almost an addiction to stop whatever I am in the middle of, check the email or text that I have just received, and often times deal with it’s contents or related task, essentially abandoning my original task or thought process.  This can be incredibly problematic if the initial task, challenge or thought process requires real focus and time commitment to address or accomplish.  I have found myself bouncing away from these difficult but important items for hours or sometimes days, because it is easier to knock out thirty or forty mindless emails.

In an effort to remedy this, I have tried (with some real success) to read and process emails during certain parts of the day. Obviously this type of scheduling works differently for everyone from a timing perspective, but I try to process emails very early in my day, even before heading to the office, again before heading to lunch, and once more the hour before leaving the office. This provides me two large windows to be present for the “live” issues that we face every day, and to spend time face to face or on the phone with customers, team members and suppliers. It also provides windows of time to focus on and think about the “40,000 foot view” of our business, where we are headed, and what we need to do to get there.

Marla Rapley, SPHR, Director of Client Relations at HKA Enterprises also highlighted the impact of constant email communication: “When at my desk the only way I can be fully focused is by closing Outlook, mainly because the biggest derailer for me is incoming email. You see that teaser pop up in the lower corner telling you who emailed and maybe be first 5 words.  Aggghh what does the rest say? Does it require action from me?  Can I get it off my plate quickly? Totally taking focus away from the task at hand.”

Obviously there are scenarios where emails require quicker turn around than what these windows provide, but I find that there are fewer of those than many would think.  There are also times when I find myself falling back into the instant response trap and have to consciously pull back and stick to the schedule.  It is definitely a work in progress for me…”

What helps you stay mindful at work?

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