Every little helps
Maybe the first thing to say about being mindful at work is that it is very unlikely, especially if you’re a relative beginner to mindfulness, that you will stay present throughout the day. Your mind is pretty much bound to go racing off here, there and everywhere. Don’t give yourself a hard time about it. If you remember to stop and be present five or six times during the day, you’re doing well, and you will feel the benefit. If you can add in a couple of short mindful walks in the fresh air, or 5 minutes meditation with your eyes closed, you’re doing brilliantly. Every little bit really does help.
Do one thing at a time
Plenty of research into multi-tasking shows that even people who think they’re great at multi-tasking are actually much less efficient than they think they are. Every time you switch from one task to another you are losing time and energy while your brain re-calibrates. It’s also a recipe for mindlessness as your mind will be chattering nineteen to the dozen about all the different things you’re trying to juggle. As far as you can, focus on one thing at a time, and remove any unnecessary distractions, such as checking your email or social media.
If you have a lot to do this may feel counter-intuitive, but, in fact rushing around doesn’t always mean that we achieve more. It can cause us to make mistakes, or to not listen properly. Time really is elastic, and if you are fully focused you will probably achieve more overall. Try to plan in some ‘cushion time’. For example, if you have to be somewhere a 15 minute drive away, allow 20 minutes to get there instead. Those extra few minutes will enable you to stop rushing, and maybe even have a couple of minutes to get present before the person you’re meeting arrives.
Change how you respond to problems
This one is more controversial, but it has helped me a great deal at times. No-one’s working situation is perfect, and many people have to deal with difficult colleagues, unreasonable expectations, uncomfortable working environments and so on. However, if you find that you have a constant internal (or indeed external) dialogue in which you are complaining about such things, something needs to change or you will sabotage any attempts to be more mindful. Eckhart Tolle puts it beautifully:
‘When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation, change the situation, or accept it. All else is madness.’
It’s usually preferable to change the situation or leave, but if we really can’t, it doesn’t help us to be constantly complaining about it. Complaining doesn’t make us feel better, it just makes the suffering worse, and prevents us from being at peace.