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10 Tips for Mindful Work

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Not long ago, I authored a post with 10 Tips for a Mindful Home, stirring up quite a bit of unrest over the suggestion that we begin each day by making the bed, a task that doesn't consume more than five minutes of a morning routine. Assuming we can maneuver out of those psychological bedclothes and into the workplace, we have eight or more hours to practice mindfulness doing things we might like even less. Mindfulness, or the practice of non-judgmental attention, is a wisdom practice, and wisdom always leads us in the direction we'd least like to go. I admit it's been awhile since I've spent 40 or more hours each week in an office, and at no time during the long stretch of my career was I anything but profoundly inattentive. Still, those long and unfulfilling days brought the dawn of a penetrating realization that my work was not the problem. Work, you see, is never the problem. The problem is the way we work. In that spirit, I offer these 10 Tips for Mindful Work, or What I Would Do Differently if I Had It All to Do Over Again:
  1. Be on time Self-discipline is the foundation of all success and the essence of self-respect. The habit of tardiness (and face it, it's a habit) is like deficit spending. It bankrupts your future and turns inconvenienced co-workers into your creditors. Set an alarm and become the master of your destiny.
  2. Care
    Work is not a distraction from your life; it is not a detour, hindrance or necessary evil. If you think this way it is the wrong view. When you are working, work is your life. Care for it as you care for yourself. Long ago, a Zen master taught, "If you find one thing wearisome, you will find everything wearisome."
  3. Make a list
    Start each day with a list of things to do. Lists ease anxiety because they de-clutter your mind and allay the fundamental fear of a multitasker: forgetting. Control is an illusion, however, so wise up and keep the list short.
  4. Forget the list
    Do not mistake a list for the thing. Adapt to the flow of real events as they occur. Adaptation is innovation and innovation is genius. Prove yourself when and where it matters most. The unforeseen problem that walks in the door is your opportunity knocking.
  5. Attend to what appears
    What appears in front of you is the only thing there is. Respond appropriately as things arise, and crises will not overtake you. Big problems result from small oversights.
  6. Avoid gossip
    Viruses spread. Keep your hands clean and cover your mouth. Silence is a prescription for longevity.
  7. Smile
    The workplace is a theater, and the drama is make-believe. Everyone appreciates a good laugh. When you can do anything as though you work at nothing, you have the best days of your life.
  8. Give credit
    No amount of money is enough. Be generous with your praise, courtesy and thanks. They will always be repaid.
  9. Take the rest of the day off
    Do your work, and then set it down. When you are at work, work without guilt or distraction. When you are at home, remember why you call it home.
  10. Do it all over again Rise and shine. An ancient teacher said, "A day without work is a day without eating." Take every chance to do it differently. Your illustrious future unfolds in the work you have before you right now.

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