In this connected world we strive to get everything we want done, in the limited time we have. We are inundated with deadlines in both the workplace and in our personal lives. When we feel a bit overwhelmed, our productivity decreases drastically because we are overcome with anxiety to complete all our tasks, and inevitably accomplish nothing! It is a vicious circle of “I have so much to do” but “I don’t even know where to start”. This manifests into a severe lack of productivity, that our brain becomes used to.
What if I told you that there is one simple way to achieve what you want and make your productivity soar? The simple answer is – Mindfulness, and I’m not talking about doing something drastic like hours of yoga and meditation. It’s about giving yourself a few minutes to just pause and gather your thoughts before you embark on anything.
When we can think better, we feel better. When we feel better we act from a calmer place and so perform better.
Mindfulness mainly focuses on slowing down your mind, pausing and observing situations without judgement. This allows you to make some space to become aware of where you are and how you are feeling, so that you act with a sense of determination and choice.
Close your eyes. Block out any distractions. Visualise what you need to do and how you’ll do it.
The insurance giant Aetna conducted a survey on the impact of mindfulness training on employees and found that staff who took part in mindfulness training added roughly 60 minutes to their productivity each week. That’s over two whole days of extreme productivity over the course of the year!
Mindfulness can hugely impact our happiness at work. New research indicates that when we are happy at work, we work more productively, creatively, and collaboratively. In fact, in a study by the University of Warwick, happiness led to a 12% increase in productivity.
Here are four simple ways that mindfulness helps us to boost happiness and productivity.
1. Avoiding Burnout & Keeping Us Motivated
Obviously, we’ll be more productive and motivated if we’re not feeling well or burnt out. Consistent research findings from the Mindfulness Based Stress Reductions trainings show that an 8 week mindfulness training course can improve immune system function, stress levels and motivation levels.
Mindfulness is also incredibly effective at improving our resilience to stressful situations, increasing our mental strength and the ability to manage our fight or flight response. This helps us stay in the parasympathetic part of our brain which promotes rest and recovery. This is also the problem-solving part of our brain. The more we activate this part of our brain, the less likely we are to react immediately to situations we deem as “dangerous”. This in turn increases our ability to assess the situation, think over solutions and react calmly, thus inflicting less stress on our bodies.
2. Producing Better Quality Work
Perhaps the most obvious way mindfulness improves our productivity is by helping us focus on one task – “uni-tasking” producing better work in a shorter amount of time. The foundation of mindfulness training is attention training. We focus our attention on the here and now and let go of our attachment to thinking and judgement.
Even more simply, mindfulness creates awareness of how we show up to a situation, project or piece of work. Are we allowing ourselves to be distracted by our emails, do we keep checking our phone? By being mindful of our actions, we can actively choose to put distractions aside and focus on one task to a higher standard.
3. Make Better Decisions
A crucial part of productivity is being able to make good decisions that are not made out of reactivity coming from a poor emotional state. Mindfulness teaches us to respond, not react. Simply pausing and gathering our thoughts we are creating awareness of where our mind and judgement is right now and pushing our emotional bias aside. This allows us to pause, take a breath and react consciously to a situation rather than a knee jerk react, often making a poor decision or a difficult situation more stressful.
4. Being Happy Through Clarity!
The common school of thought is that we need to be happy in order to get clarity and focus on what we are doing. It turns out it’s the opposite – when we get clarity on what really matters and we focus on one task and get into our “flow”, we get happy!
We also get a lot more done.
There are many people who achieve a lot every day, they appear to be very productive. However, getting lots done in a day doesn’t mean we’re productive if the stuff we’re doing doesn’t matter. Mindfulness helps us get clarity on what really matters. The clearer we are on what actions matter the most, the more likely we are to actually do them.
Focusing on what actually matters also increases our happiness as we can see the direct benefits and value of what we are doing. We can differentiate between this and those tasks that seem urgent but aren’t important. Giving ourselves a bit of a confidence boost in the process.
Spending a couple of hours each day focusing on the most important tasks we can identify results in significantly greater productivity than spending all day in “react mode.”