By Marcelle Yeager
We all feel overwhelmed. Whether it’s every day, several times a week or less often, when the feeling hits, it seems like you’re losing control. The immediate availability of information thanks to all kinds of technology at our fingertips can make us feel like we have to respond to everything right away. Text messages, emails, calendar invites and calls pile up and seem as if they need instant attention, and we quickly begin to feel behind. Then more gets added to our plate, and – just like that – we are engulfed by tasks.
If you’re constantly in scramble mode, you’re unlikely to completely concentrate and are probably not being as productive as possible. People often end up spending more time thinking and talking about how much work they have to do than it takes to actually do it.Practicing mindfulness can help you focus and block out unnecessary distractions so you can be more productive. It can also help build teamwork, enhance creativity and communication and resolve conflict. Mindfulness refers to the practice of focusing on the present and living in the moment. It is an amazing tool for stress relief and can be applied to any setting, including the workplace.
Here are some ways you can practice mindfulness at your job:
Breathe. Find a quiet place, close your office door if you have one, or go outside for a few minutes. Sit or stand upright, close your eyes, and slowly inhale fully through your nose and exhale through your mouth. If you are stuck on a particular thought, picture it floating away from you, and return to focusing on your breath. Try this for three to five minutes.
Take time out. Brigid Schulte, author of “Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time” and staff writer at The Washington Post says scientific research has shown that humans are wired for innovation. When your mind is allowed to wander, you are creative. This gives you a refreshed feeling, improves your communications and leads you to new ways to solve problems.
Acknowledge transitions. During the workday, we are constantly changing activities from emailing, to talking with a colleague, to making a phone call to writing a report. We move from one task to another with extreme speed. Give yourself some time to transition between modes, even if it’s less than a minute. Simply acknowledge that you are making a shift, and remind yourself to remain present so you don’t bring thoughts of the previous mode with you into the next.
Stay calm. Drama and stress inevitably arise in every workplace. Try to observe dramatized situations and stay far from them. If colleagues begin involving you in some way, try to put aside opinions. Focus on the present, and do not allow visions of what the future outcome could be determine your actions. The same is true of stress. Acknowledge it is there, and then allow yourself to move on to your next task.
Learn from mistakes. When something does not go well or as planned, turn your negative thoughts into positive ones. Accept that you are human, and all of us fail at times. Look at each experience as an opportunity for growth. Allow yourself five to 10 minutes to think about how you would do things differently next time. This allows you to focus on the present disappointment and move on to your next assignment to avoid dwelling on it.
Given the number of hours we average at work or even just thinking about work, it’s essential to remain cognizant of the present moment. These exercises only require you to be aware of your thoughts and feelings and to take a few minutes a day to refocus. Create these stops in your day to breathe, allow your mind to wander and deliberately acknowledge transitions. Remaining calm in the office and reflecting briefly on failures will enable you to avoid prolonged stress.
In order to prioritize properly and exist in the here and now, you must know how to deal with overwhelming feelings. Otherwise, it will be challenging to remain productive at work and to disengage when it’s time to enjoy outside activities and family and friends to the fullest.
Marcelle Yeager is the president of Career Valet, which delivers personalized career navigation services. Her goal is to enable people to recognize skills and job possibilities they didn’t know they had to make a career change or progress in their current career. She worked for more than 10 years as a strategic communications consultant, including four years overseas. Marcelle holds an MBA from the University of Maryland.