Many would agree that focus is extremely important in the workplace. However, with so many Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter alerts popping up on our phones, or co-workers being too chatty, or even our own thoughts driving us crazy, it can be hard to focus.
Mindfulness and the Breath:
I would like to use Mindfulness as a metaphor of how we can be more focused in the work place.
In mindfulness, focus is a huge principle. In fact, if you have ever tried to meditate, or have ever practiced yoga, you will know that the breath is one of the most important things that we focus on. Why?
- Anchors us
- It is ALWAYS there
- It is a place of refuge
We can always turn to our breath for refuge in a difficult or stressful moment. In fact, swimmers and runners also like to us their breath as a metronome or focal point. It helps them to run and swim more smoothly.
The interesting thing is that our breath is a key indicator of our “aliveness” but we go throughout out our day never even thinking about our breath (unless we are having difficulty breathing), then we will notice it, in a heartbeat.
It is actually quite amazing how our bodies are made to function. Can you imagine if we actually had to remember to breath everyday? We are all so busy, we would completely forget and be dead. I know, I would be dead. “Ain’t no body, got time for that!” :-)
The Present Moment:
Thus, in mindfulness practice, our breath helps us come back to center, it helps us to reconnect with ourselves. Focusing on our breath and really noticing what it feels like is HUGE. Take a moment right now, just to locate your breath. Can you feel yourself breathing? (I just took a moment to do it too).
The whole point of focusing on your breath, (just then), was to raise your awareness level in that moment. Focusing on the breath, allows you to be present in the moment. It stops you from thinking about other things that are going on and anchors you to be present.
However, you will notice that when you try to focus on your breath for an extended amount of time, your mind will automatically start to wander. You will be thinking about, what you are doing for dinner that night, or, is your spouse picking up the kids, or worried about an important meeting you have with your boss tomorrow. Whatever.
It happens EVERY time. The KEY is that you recognize the fact that a thought came up, (you don’t judge yourself, or beat yourself up about it), you notice the thought or (the details of the thought), and you go back to the breath.
Here is what I mean, about the "details of the thought". If you are thinking about dinner that night, try not to go into the details of what you are going to eat, if you have enough ingredients to make it, what grocery store you have to go to etc. If you can notice that you had that thought, great! Come back to the breath. If you do go down the "details" path, it's ok too (no self-judgement). Just notice it and come back to the breath.
It’s as easy as that, but it can be very challenging to do.
How long can you focus on your breath before a thought comes into your mind? Can you even catch your thought? Can you go back to the breath? Have fun with yourself and try it out.
As we just mentioned, focusing on our breath is an anchor to help us stay present in the moment. Thus, what is our “breath” or “anchor” to stay present or focused in the workplace?
It’s the project we are working on, it’s that power point presentation we have to deliver, it’s the prospect research we have to do. Whatever the work is, that is our “anchor". How do we notice the distractions? It is just like “noticing our thoughts” without going down the "details" path (if possible).
For example, when our phone buzzes, we check it, and we notice that we got a “Facebook” message. That’s great. We can notice it and then go back to our work. However, it is very tempting and very easy, to go into Facebook and read the post and while you are there check out everyone else’s post for the next 5, 10, 15 minutes? Time can go by and we are not even aware that we are spending that amount of time away from what we should be doing.
Feel free to (insert your own distraction) if you don’t even like or use Facebook. The key is that you are aware of the distraction in the first place, because its very easy to get distracted without even realizing it.
Of course, all of this is easier said than done, but that is why we are all a work in progress and it takes practice, and awareness to even know that we are distracted in the first place.
Thus, the next time you are aware that you are distracted, notice and bring yourself back to your work. As a reminder, you can always go back to your breath to help you to reset.
Feel free to comment below, to tell us your thoughts around focus / distractions, your awareness / observations around focus and distractions. It is always great to hear about others’ experiences.