During hectic times at work or in your studies, boosting productivity can help you reduce stress while also making sure you work more effectively. But productivity isn’t as simple as forcing yourself to spend hours hammering away at a particular set of tasks.
Adopting a mindful approach to work and study is a great way to make the most of your time and set yourself up for meaningful productivity.
What is mindfulness?
With its roots in the Buddhist tradition, mindfulness is fundamentally a way of training your mind to be present and focused in a particular moment. While it is commonly assumed that mindfulness equates to non-thinking, it actually has far more to do with clearing your head of distractions so that full attention can be directed towards what you’re feeling, thinking, or doing at the time.
The impact of mindfulness on focus and stress reduction also has a scientific grounding. Meditative activity—which is the most direct way to practice mindfulness—has been observed to reduce the number of beta waves in the brain, which stem from stress or heightened anxiety. More recent evidence even suggests that meditative practices strengthen the prefrontal cortex, the human center of conscious thought and reasoning. In actively mindful individuals, the ability to manage stress, make decisions, and maintain deep focus should, therefore, be enhanced.
The importance of being mindful—for work and beyond!
Whether it’s work or play, practicing mindfulness can significantly improve our habits and ways of thinking. Being totally present means that mindful people tend to experience higher quality relationships and are more inclined to think creatively. So mindfulness isn’t just a bonus for your workflow—your social life and hobbies can benefit too!
When it comes to productivity, the perks of mindfulness are obvious. Just as plants need sunlight, nutrients, and water to bloom, our minds are nurtured under certain conditions too. Mindfulness creates these conditions by clearing away distractions and stress-inducing emotions to hone a sharper focus, which is an obvious advantage for any kind of work that requires concentration.
By putting the mindfulness tips below into practice, you’ll find yourself achieving more everyday without having to do the extra hours.
Tip 1: Get into the meditation mindset
For most people, mindfulness is a new way of thinking, which means it takes practice before it can be utilized. Meditation, in all its many forms, is an ideal way to build the mindfulness muscle. There is no correct way to meditate—it simply requires that you focus on the present moment and observe your thoughts as they drift through your head.
If you’re new to meditation and need somewhere to start, you can try meditating on your breathing. The 4-7-8 breathing technique is simple and effective: breathe in for four seconds, hold it for seven and exhale for eight. Stay focused on your breathing all the while.
Alternatively, consider downloading a guided meditation app like Headspace or Calm to ease you in. Once you’ve found your method, integrate it into your work routine by taking a few minutes every now and then to recenter your focus.
Tip 2: One task at a time
In a culture that emphasizes fast work, we tend to opt for multitasking as a quick fix when we’ve got a lot to get through. However, in reality hovering between a number of tasks generates unnecessary stress as we struggle to direct attention—which certainly doesn’t make your workload any lighter.
In busy periods, committing to one thing at a time is the effective way to work. This more mindful approach means you’ll be entirely present in what you’re doing, clearing your head of stress and distractions. Not only will you plough through it faster, but the end result will also be of higher quality.
Tip 3: Disconnect every day
We’re constantly wired into social networks and news platforms. A constant flow of media and information can be overwhelming, which isn’t helpful for clearing mental clutter.
In the hyperconnected digital world, staying mindful is often as simple as taking some time without your smartphone or device. Whether indoors or outdoors, you should try to do something each day that doesn’t depend on an electronic device. Go for a walk or make dinner for some friends—but make sure they leave their phones at the door!
Tip 4: Create a distraction-free workspace
Distractions are everywhere in today’s world, but they are mutable if you set up an ideal working environment. While working or studying, switch off notifications on all your devices and implement designated slots to reply to emails and work-related messages. Even a short message can quickly disrupt a sharp flow of focus.
Music is advisable for productive working—so long as it’s the right kind. Research from Cambridge Sound Management indicates that speech distracts 48% of office workers, meaning that lyricless music is what will keep your focus tight. Create a playlist with music for concentration, or plug into one of many compilations accessible via Spotify or SoundCloud.
Tip 5: Order up, work down
Knowing how to optimize your attention span is a staple of productive and mindful working. You can do this by ordering tasks for the day ahead, organizing them by priority, required level of focus, and estimated time. Beginning with those that demand more mental energy is a good idea, given that most people peak in energy and focus in the morning.
Work down the list so that you finish your day with the least demanding tasks. This way, the arc of your day will wind down naturally and you’ll feel relaxed about your mind gradually becoming less engaged.
Tip 6: Remember why you started
If you’re ever feeling at a loss with a task in academic work or at your job, take a step back to remember why you’re doing it. By seeing the bigger picture, you’ll be reminded of a greater purpose that can be forgotten amid the frustrating but necessary steps involved in getting something done.
When you finish work for the day, take some time to reflect on points where you felt challenged, learned something or felt inspired. Write them down and come back to them when you need motivation.
Tip 7: Keep moving!
The body and mind are closely connected, working in tandem to establish mental clarity. For this reason, achieving holistic mindfulness means being attentive to your body too.
If you can, use work breaks to engage your body in something physical—throw a ball with a friend for ten minutes, juggle, or go for a brisk walk. Activities like these will suspend intense concentration for a while and free up space in your head, refreshing your focus for when you go back to the task.
Whether it’s exams or a project deadline on the horizon, establishing mindful working habits send your productivity levels soaring and unlock the best of your abilities. Sharpen your focus and start working smarter!