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Outsmart Your Stress at Work: The 'Email Meditation'

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Prior to becoming a psychologist, I was in the corporate world leading teams of people and becoming intimate, maybe too intimate, with being overwhelmed and feeling stress at work. In the many years that I've been working with people in the field of mindulness and psychotherapy, it appears that I'm not alone in that experience. Recently, I wrote a popular post called "One Minute to Stress Less," and now it's time to see how to make this now effect come alive at work.

In today's accelerating business world, people are constantly being told there's no time to "BE" and they don't manage their time well, so it's no wonder why more and more people every day are left feeling exhausted, unfocused, unproductive, unhealthy, and burned out.

"You need to manage your time better and learn to juggle more," is the conventional reply to getting more things done faster. The American Psychological Association put out a report saying that the inability to focus for even 10 minutes on any one thing at a time may be costing you 20 to 40 percent in terms of efficiency and productivity.

What more and more business leaders are finding is instead of doing more things faster, you need to learn how to prioritize your attention and do the most important things really well.

It may not be a major surprise that mindfulness has been shown translate into significant reductions in workplace stress. When stress is reduced, we can be more effective at our jobs. This is the reason companies like Google, Apple, Yahoo, Aetna and many others have begun bringing mindfulness programs into the workplace. Recent research came in The Journal of Occupational Health, with a 12-week live online program I designed for eMindful called Mindfulness at Work™ to explore effects on stress.

The published results: Participants reported significant reduction in perceived stress levels and an enhanced ability to respond to stress.

So whether you're trying to be more effective and less stressed at your current job or schooling, or more effective at finding a job because you just got laid off, attention management is the key in today's new business world. In other words, the issue isn't so much time management, but attention management in work and life.

When we learn how to prime our minds toward the spaces of choice in the day, the effect of that is the ability to more readily refocus our attention on what is most important, become more effective, less stressed and, perhaps surprisingly, seem to have more time.

The Email Meditation

In The Now Effect, I have a chapter called "Now at Work" where I give many ideas about how to bring mindfulness directly into the workplace to make a positive impact.

One example that you can immediately implement in your day is the "email meditation":

Email meditation: When you're emailing, email for a certain period of time (i.e., 10, 20, or 30 minutes), and practice "see, touch, go" when your mind or behavior wanders.

"See, touch, go" is something learned earlier in the book, and it simply means when your mind wanders, "see" where it wandered to, "touch" or notice the thought, and "gently go" back to the task at hand. Practicing "see, touch, go" when we're focused on email will strip away any of the wasted attention on self-judgment or any other distracting thoughts and get you back to the task with greater focus, making your more productive and less stressed.

See, Touch, Go

The three-minute video below is the first instructional video of many included in the book, but I wanted to share it with you to give you an experience of "see, touch, go." Give yourself a chance to practice it right now, then go ahead and bring it to the tasks at work, even your email

Come back to this to practice throughout the day and bring it informally to the tasks at work whenever you notice your mind wandering from what's most important to pay attention to. You may even want to schedule a pop-up in your calendar asking yourself "Where is my attention now?" When it pops up, take a breath and then answer the question.

After you answer, redirect your attention to what is most important right now. You may do this dance over and over again. The purpose isn't to judge yourself if you're distracted, but just become aware of it and gently refocus your attention. This mindful focus has been proven to help you become more effective and less stressed at work.

Try it out!

As always please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Adapted from "Mindfulness and Psychotherapy"

For more by Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D., click here.

For more on mindfulness, click here.

For more on stress, click here.

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