Increasing Your Ability to Focus and Reducing Stress Are Positive Outcomes for Many People.
By Steve Schumacher
Mindfulness simply means moment-to-moment awareness. How many of us can honestly say that we are able to be fully present in the moment, think clearly and block out distractions? Not very many of us.
The inability to focus on one person, one task and one relationship at a time causes stress. That resulting stress causes our performance to drop and may end up in physical issues also. As employees, we are at our best for ourselves, and our companies, when we are able to manage our stress well.
For decades, research has proven that mindfulness is effective in managing stress and developing positive feelings and happiness. In 2012, Financial Times reported that General Mills had begun a mindfulness training course that resulted in 83 percent of participants stating that they were “taking time each day to optimize my personal productivity” – up from 23 percent before the course.
Eighty-two percent said they now make time to eliminate tasks with limited productivity value – up from 32 percent before the course. And among senior executives who took the course, 80 percent reported a positive change in their ability to make better decisions, while 89 percent said they became better listeners.
We know intuitively that reducing our stress and improving our ability to focus can reap positive results, but how do you do this in your hectic, 24/7 work life? Like so many other things, it is all about making the choice to give it a meaningful try.
Of course, if you are the boss, you can hold people accountable to attend mindfulness training. True mindfulness comes from people making a personal choice though; it does not come from being forced to do it. So, if you are the boss, it is great to offer mindfulness training but make it voluntary.
For you as an individual, if you see some payoff in practicing mindfulness, give yourself 30 days of honestly trying some of the exercises. Research says that after roughly 30 days of trying something, it will become a habit. If after that time, you have not seen any benefits, make a different choice if you like. Here are some things to try during that first month:
Do a single task at a time. Do whatever it takes to allow you to work on one task through to completion, without being pulled in multiple directions. When you are working on your budget, work on your budget. When you are writing emails, write emails. You get the point. Focus on one thing at a time.
Work on your highest priorities. I have met many people over my career that seem to always have their time full with tasks. Yet, at the end of the week, they feel like they did not get anything accomplished. Mindfulness calls for you to do less, not more. The key is that what you are doing is high priority. The number of tasks is less, but the impact is greater.
Take time away from everything. Do nothing for 5 to 10 minutes a day. Focus on your breathing, your surroundings. Stay present in the moment, blocking out all to-dos. This is a re-energizing time designed to improve your ability to focus.
Be present with others. When interacting with others, focus on them only. Put your cellphone away and place your entire self into the human interaction. The outcome of doing this is the other person will feel better about you and your interpersonal skills will improve.
Engage with the company. Take the time each day to remind yourself of the company mission, vision and values. Commit yourself to be the best steward of the company possible. Remind yourself of the company’s purpose and your purpose as a leader. Commit to both.
Pause before tough projects. Prior to diving into tasks that may be especially difficult for you, take a few minutes to do some self-reflection and repeat some positive affirmations to yourself about your capabilities.
Review the day. Prior to going home, review the results of the day. Doing this regularly will keep stress from spilling over into your personal life.
Curious, but don’t know where to start?
Take a few one-minute mindfulness breaks at your desk or before you head down to the quarry each day. Just stop, close your eyes relax and take a few deep breaths. You may just see the effects sooner than you think.
Steve Schumacher is a management consultant, trainer and public speaker with more than 25 years of experience in numerous industries throughout North America, including aggregates operations. He can be reached at [email protected].