Getting work done can be a challenge. Maybe you are working on an important project. Your bookkeeping might be piling up or taxes need to be completed. You might even just want to catch up on your email or have some reading you want to get done. All of these tasks need your focused attention to complete. Without a plan, monkey mind will creep in and you may “wake up” to your behaviour in 45 min wondering how you got onto searching through Amazon or getting up for yet another snack.
Lucky for you, there are some straightforward ways to organize your environment, technology and yourself to supercharge your working focus. Nothing is foolproof – you can always undermine your work if you are not disciplined – but this mindful workflow may help you get some more traction in getting more of what you want to be done each day.
Focussed work starts with good boundaries
If you want to really focus on a task, commit to doing it in as many ways as you can.
- Schedule time on your calendar for this task and make sure you don’t have other tasks or appointments that will conflict with your mindful work session.
- Make your personal commitment to work a public commitment by telling work colleagues and family that you are going to be working. Let them know for how long you will be unavailable and to not disturb you during this time.
Make your working environment match your mindful work intention
We tend to resonate with our environment. I mean this in a very practical sense. If you are in a scattered, chaotic environment, you will struggle to not be distracted. Conversely, a simple, quiet environment removes external distractions and allows the mind to focus more on the task at hand. (This is the same recommendation, by the way, that is made to set up an area to meditate in.) Keep these ideas in mind when setting up an area to work in:
- Find a quiet room or area away from visual distractions and interruptions from others.
- If possible, close the door or use headphones or earmuffs to block outside noise.
- If you have that door, put a do not disturb sign on it.
- Unplug or mute your phone.
Set up your mindful workspace
Now that you have a mindful environment to work in, you need to do the same for your immediate workspace:
- Arrange all of the tools you will need for the job around you…and NOTHING more.
- Prepare your workspace ahead of time, like the night before, so you can get started working immediately.
- If this task is one that you do on a regular basis, consider making a project kit or workflow to be ready for each time you work on that specific project. This means putting all of the tools for that project in one place, like a box or a drawer (even if you have to buy a duplicate item to have on hand, like a pen or scissors). This will save you spending precious work time searching for all of your stuff when you want to get started.
- Make any final washroom trips, get a glass of water or drink of your choice and grab anything else that you need to work.
Mindful-ize your tech
If technology is involved in your work, get your laptop or smartphone into a state so it can be helpful to your mindful work and not be a distraction waiting to happen.
- Put your device into do not disturb mode or turn off notifications. You don’t need new emails, texts or social media posts vying for your attention.
- Close any programs that are not needed for the task at hand. You do not need visual temptations or unforeseen distractions. (There are many apps available that turn off access to specific websites or apps that you might want to look into.)
(For more info about how to mindfully use your smartphone, check out this previous blog post.)
There are always more things to help keep you focussed
- Set a timer 20 or 30 minutes and then stretch your legs for a few minutes before starting another working block. You can set the timer for longer than that, but do not have work sessions for longer than 50 minutes, as it is hard for adults to generally focus for longer than that.
- Place a blank notepad with a pen beside you to write down any thoughts or ideas that come to you while you are working. This is an important tool because instead of diverging from your work to look into that thought or using up precious mental real estate trying to remember it, you can just jot down a quick reminder on the notepad and then return to work confident that you have captured it for later.
- Play non-distracting music to help you stay in the groove. Generally, it is recommended to stick to instrumental music, without a catchy melody, so you don’t have new, exciting info for your mind to attend to. Alternately, you can stream white noise or a brainwave focusing “binaural beats”.
Not all tasks need the same level of focus and mindful support. Take from these suggestions the ones that you think will help you most and try them out. Add your own focussing tools to really make this mindful workflow your own. Most of all, make mindful working a priority for yourself. There are always important things that you want to get done. If you don’t make the time to do them and give yourself the supports to help you follow them through to the end, your mind will just slip off to the next shiny object and another opportunity will be lost. You deserve better than that. So, make mindfulness part of your workflow and add a little more satisfaction to your day.
by Kurt Frost