THE BLOG
09/25/2014 01:02 pm ET Updated Nov 25, 2014

Can Mindfulness at Work Help Busy Executives?

Can Mindfulness at work help busy executives get more done and be better bosses? Yes!!

Do you ever feel you've been busy all day and didn't get much done? You may not have realized it at the time but you were likely multitasking all day; helping co-workers and clients, switching from task to task, responding to email, phone calls, knocks on your office door, being pulled into meetings... Oh, and then there's your job writing proposals, strategic plans and managing your team.

The challenge is that every time we switch away from what we're doing we lose focus -- we lose concentration... we may even lose the fantastic creative idea we were thinking. Has that ever happened to you?

Mindfulness at work can empower busy executives... it's not a vulnerable, airy-fairy practice. Even entry-level mindfulness training can have many benefits -- including:

  • Getting more done in less time
  • Improved memory
  • Less stress / frustration
  • Greater employee satisfaction
  • Greater work / life balance
  • How / Why Does Mindfulness At Work... Work?

In its simplest form, my definition of Mindfulness works well in a business environment. Mindfulness empowers executives because it's about being aware and taking time to respond with thoughtful intention. You do not react... you respond. To respond with thoughtful intention means you:

  • Know and consider your objective
  • Make thoughtful choices
  • Are present - even if you may choose to not participate
  • Listen when being spoken to
  • Practice empathy
  • Don't assume / Do ask questions
  • Why Is 'Knowing And Considering Your Objective' Important?

Knowing and considering your objectives at work is critical. It's also critical when you are being mindful and making thoughtful choices. Without this focus, it's easy to lose sight of your objective as you are bombarded with... email, phone calls, knocks on door etc.

As a busy executive, staying focused on your objectives helps you get more done because it allows you to notice when distractions are coming along. Being Mindful at work lets you choose whether you will shift your attention away from... or to stay focused on your Important Work.

Example of Mindfulness At Work:

An example of a distraction and then applying Mindfulness at work is as follows. Note, all responses are thoughtful and respectful, but only some are mindful of your objective.

Your Objective: You have an email etiquette training RFP to write.

Time Management Plan: You allocate the next 30 minutes to concentrate on developing your first draft.

What Happens: 10 minutes into mind-mapping the RFP someone asks if you want to go for a coffee.

You can:

  1. Go
  2. Get into a conversation with them about what's on your plate and why you can't go
  3. Say, "I appreciate the invitation -- perhaps next time."
  4. Ask them to get you one.

The best solution may have been to go to a conference room for those 30 minutes so you would not be bothered, but that didn't happen. So, if your objective is to focus on the RFP, what is the best response?

I like '#3'. Why? While '#4' is a close runner-up, '#4' may result in further delays searching for money... and then being interrupted again when they return with your coffee, your change... and a story about how cute the barista was.

The added benefit of' '#3' is that when you're done, you can reward yourself with a 5 minute walk to clear your mind -- reset your energy and pick up a decaf green tea.

Conclusion

All too often we make unconscious choices to multitask -- or at least to try to multitask. The result is we feel rushed and overloaded. Mindfulness at work helps us choose when we will be distracted by deciding if it is Important Work or Busy Work.

I'm not saying that we can't work on two or more projects at a time. We can! What we can't do is work on two or more important things at exactly the same time. You can listen to an old TV comedy rerun and edit a proposal perhaps -- but there is no way to do two important things at the same time.

Try It #I: Listen to a favourite radio talk show. If you are like me, they will say something that engages you -- makes you think. That's great!

Perhaps you will remember a situation -- perhaps you will have a thought about the possible answer. In short, your mind will wander. When you realize you've been lost in thought, ask yourself... can I recount the details of what they said while I was lost in thought? I'm betting lots that you can not. Proof that it's impossible to multitask on two important things at the same time.

Happy communication and mindfulness at work.

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