On average, people in the UK spend 42 hours a week at work. Add to this the commute there are back, and that is a huge portion of your life spent at work. On top of this, most of us spend this time feeling stressed, and like the demands of our work are ever-growing. We’re constantly expected to be contactable, and to reply to emails within very short time periods. It can all just feel a bit hard to disconnect from. To try and counteract this, recently, the trend for mindfulness has really taken off. On the internet there is a huge amount of information on mindfulness, but what actually is mindfulness? How much of the information on mindfulness is useful? And, how can we actually be mindful at work?
What actually is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is defined as:
“The state of being conscious or aware of the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.”
For many people, mindfulness also takes on many different interpretations. Some people like to think of it as being thankful for everything they have. Mindfulness is used as an exercise to help us feel more connected to our environment and the people around us. It’s often seen as a way to help decrease stress and increase happiness, both at home and in the workplace.
How much of the information on mindfulness is actually useful?
Whilst researching mindfulness, we came across quite a lot of useful information, but, quite a lot of it was not really applicable. If sitting on an exercise ball and breathing deeply is your thing, then great, feel free to do it! But for lots of people, sitting on an exercise ball and breathing deeply might make them feel a bit self conscious, especially in front of a room of people they might not know that well. So we have tried to pick out some of the things we feel are most useful, and have also tried to tailor it to Raw Space.
How can we actually be mindful at work?
1. Stop trying to multi-task.
Studies suggest that multi-tasking tricks us into thinking that we are being more productive, when in actual fact, we are being up to 40 percent less productive than if we just focused on one task. But, we can appreciate that a lot of the time, there are many things that need to be done when you come in to work. Here is our suggested action plan for trying to tackle the urge to multi-task:
- Come up with a plan of what you need to do and the best order to do it in. Someone described it as ‘you wouldn’t set off on a journey without directions, so why do that for your day?’ and it has changed our outlook.
- If you have multiple things that need doing, and want to feel like you’ve made a start on all of them, try working on each one for half an hour at a time. Having clearly defined limits and time periods to focus on tasks should prompt you to think ‘right I have half an hour so let’s make it count’. On top of this, we always find that switching between tasks keeps us more focused because our brains are constantly being stimulated and doing something new.
- Stop letting technology get in the way! Put your phone out of sight so you aren’t tempted to check your notifications. Disabling push notifications on your laptop will also stop you from getting distracted.
2. Only use your phone and computer when you really need.
How much do you actually need your phone there when you’re working? Chances are, rarely. How much does your laptop need to be involved in a conversation with your coworker? Again, chances are, it probably doesn’t. Which leads us to ask, why do you still have them there, interrupting the conversations and distracting you? To feel more mindful, we suggest that you try active listening. Basically, focus on the conversation you’re having in that moment. Try not to let your mind wander to who just messaged you. It will be better for everyone involved, and you’ll leave it feeling like you had a much more worthwhile interaction.
3. Stand up to work.
Sitting in your chair in the same position all day can make you feel a bit sluggish and bored. Simply standing up and changing your physical position can make a huge difference to your productivity. In the coworking space we have higher desks specifically for standing, so give it a try!
4. Make the most of your breaks.
When you’re weighed down with countless tasks sometimes it seems like the last thing you need is a break. It may seem counter-productive, but chances are it is probably the first thing you need. Don’t feel guilty for letting yourself have regular time-outs to just unwind. Head for a quick walk through Stokes Croft; go and sit outside on the benches; sit on a bean bag and meditate for one minute. There are loads of options for things you can do to just chill for a short amount of time.
Being in a coworking space where everyone plans their own structure for the day, it can be easy to fall into the trap of not giving yourself proper breaks, but these are also very important. Give yourself at least half an hour to properly enjoy your food, if you didn’t bring any then there are loads of great options around and about for getting food so make the most of this. There is even St Andrews park just a 10 minute walk away.
5. Try short mindfulness tasks.
Some of our favourites are:
- Email meditation – reply to your emails immediately so they are sorted and out of your mind. Then stop and close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
- One minute meditation – close your eyes, and concentrate on your breathing and all the points of contact between your body and your seat. If any thoughts pop into your head then acknowledge them and dismiss them.
- The observation game – find an object near you (it could be a coloured pen, or one of the many plants we have around the space) and really focus on it as if you are seeing it for the first time.
- Mindful seeing – look out the window (or even better, go and sit outside) and look at everything there is to see. Try and avoid categorising things like ‘car’ or ‘shop’ and instead think about colours, patterns, textures, the way the birds move in the sky etc.
- Try and think of 3 things you’re stressed about, and 3 things you’re looking forward to. This could also work for 3 things you don’t like about yourself, and 3 things you do. Try and make sure you end on a positive note.
6. Be aware of your outlook on things.
Being aware of your outlook on things can really change how you experience them. One really interesting example is stress. Researchers have found that people experiencing high levels of stress, but who believed that stress was good for them had among the lowest mortality rates. Whereas highly stressed people who believed that stress was bad for their health had the highest chance of dying. Now that isn’t meant to scare you and make you stressed about stress, just draw attention to the fact that actually, stress can be a good thing in certain situations. How many of us procrastinate right up until the last minute when we suddenly become stressed about all the work we have to do. That little bit of pressure can work wonders sometimes.
Another key outlook to be aware of is how you think your day is going to go. If you haven’t slept very well and know you have a lot of work to do, then it’s only natural to think “this day is going to be awful”. But try to acknowledge that that’s what you’re feeling and switch it up to something more positive. For example, “I didn’t sleep very well, but I could have my favourite food for lunch and that will make my day better”, or “I’m meeting my friend later so that will be fun”.
7. Put things in perspective.
“When I was younger I had a weekend job at Waitrose. I remember it was a few days before Christmas and we were run off our feet. Pretty much everyone in the store was stressed. I was having a little moment of panic where I realised just how much work I had left to do in a really short space of time, and my manager just made me stop for a second and said “at the end of the day, we’re just putting baked beans on a shelf. The world isn’t going to end if the beans aren’t on the shelf in the next 15 minutes.” It made me laugh and just really made me think, actually yeah, in the grand scheme of things, it’s really not that important.” – Rachel
It is so easy to get wrapped up in our lives and how urgent everything seems, when actually, most things can wait 15 minutes for you to have a break.
We hope these tips were useful. Here at Raw Space, we want to make sure everyone is happy and doing the best they can. Let us know your best tips!