Updated: Mar 29
The benefits of mindfulness are enormous. Here's how you can use it to your advantage in the workplace to minimise stress and maximise effective leadership.
Mindfulness Tips for Maintaining Work-Life Balance
In our last post, we focused on ways to identify and manage stress and tips on how to proactively use your calendar to take control of your work-life balance in 2021. In this post, we will be discussing how practicing mindfulness and staying organized can help you become a leader who embodies work-life balance and looks after the well-being of employees.
So what exactly is mindfulness? Mindfulness can easily be thought of as a retreat from the outsized challenges leaders often face. And when things get tough, that’s when your mindfulness practice actually shines. Here are some common situations that you can diffuse or avoid altogether by channeling strong mindfulness practices and being aware of your surroundings. Doing so will make your day - and everyone else’s day around you - much better.
1. Things get hot in a meeting and emotions take over
If you ask yourself, “What outcome do I truly want here?” you may be able to see your true aim more clearly and defuse the excess emotion that may be getting in the way. It is not about doing away with passion and emotion; rather, it is about assessing how to spend the precious resource of your - and everyone else’s - mental energy.
2. Distraction keeps you from accomplishing important things
When you have that feeling of being lost, you can inquire, “Where is the most important place for my focus and energy to be right now?” To help promote deep focus, try creating a 90-minute block on your calendar that is your untouchable focus time. Ensuring that nobody can schedule meetings with you during this time will help you stay in the zone and accomplish tasks that have been on your mind.
3. Your team runs into a roadblock
Ask questions of yourself and others that lead to solutions or at least greater understanding, rather than blame and recrimination, such as:
What can we learn?
What are our strengths?
What can we build on? What can we leave behind?
4. Taking on too much work and not delegating properly
This is a prescription for burning yourself out while undermining others’ opportunities to learn and become empowered. You need to ask, “Why am I really doing this? Does ‘helping’ make me feel important?”
You may come to see that you’re less overwhelmed and the team is more capable when you delegate authority to others.
5. Interrupting over listening
Whenever you feel an urge to interject, stop yourself and take notice. See if you can use your bodily senses as an early warning system to interrupt hasty outbursts. Ask yourself, “What happens in my body the moment before I interject?”
This may help you step back and ride out the impulse to interrupt.
Just as mindfulness is an important practice for your well-being, so too is staying organized. Strong organization skills help you to lead a more positive and productive lifestyle, and here is why:
1. Increased productivity
While this might seem obvious, it is important to highlight. Organization and productivity go hand in hand. Without being organized, it can seem difficult to be and feel productive. When you know where everything is and have a good system in place, it is much easier to get things done and stay on task.
2. More time
Your time is precious, and staying organized helps you make the most of it.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the average person can spend up to 15 minutes a day looking for misplaced items. Additionally, the average professional can spend up to six weeks each year searching for lost documents. It may take a bit of work up front, but staying organized will save you so much more time in the future scrambling for files and allow you to focus on what matters.
3. Reduced stress and anxiety
As you hastily search for files and have a hard time keeping track of where things are, it is easy to start to feel overwhelmed. This ultimately leads to feeling more stressed and anxious overall. The solution? Staying organized. This will help you feel calmer and more in control in the office.
According to Sally Augustin, PhD, an environmental psychologist and author of Designology: How to Find Your Place Type and Align your Life with Design, “seeing clutter all around us is mentally exhausting and makes us feel tense.” Decluttering your environment can benefit your focus, your mood, and your work ethic.
Lead with Confidence and Humility
Now that you’re equipped with mindfulness and organization, you’re ready to dive into what it takes to be a leader who prioritizes work-life balance and well-being. Great leaders are inspiring and motivating. They are strategic thinkers who can see the big picture in business and in life. And yet to sustain this task in our modern age, great leaders must also be present, resilient, and healthy in body and mind.
Thanks to changes in technology, the world of work now moves at an accelerated pace. We now have the ability to communicate with people across the world in seconds and to work anytime, anywhere.
As a result, the line separating work and the rest of life has become increasingly blurred. And as we’ve touched on, employees often feel stressed, either from superiors or self-induced, to be ready to work at any time of the day.
The unique pressures of the modern age pose a real threat to leadership and indeed our very well-being. Today’s leaders require more than management skills, financial acumen, and the ability to inspire. Leaders also need the inner skills that will allow them to mitigate these modern pressures and to sustain their impact over time.
The Benefits of Mindful Leadership
We hear a lot these days about the benefits that mindfulness practice holds for individuals. It cultivates focus, reduces stress and anxiety, and builds the essential capacity of resilience.
We don’t hear as much about the unique role of mindfulness in cultivating inspiring and effective leaders, and yet it can be so helpful. In just about every form of work, business performance is ultimately a function of how our people are performing. When our people get burned out or overwhelmed with stress, absenteeism, turnover and health care costs skyrocket, productivity declines, and the bottom line suffers.
Mindfulness has been shown to increase sleep quality, boost productivity, and enhance focus. Leaders who begin training the skill of resilience are happier, healthier, more productive, and even more likely to stay committed to their organization.
So how can leaders begin training this ability to stay more present, productive, and resilient in the midst of life’s challenges? And how can they model and scale these practices throughout their organization? Here are three powerful, easy to implement, mindfulness strategies:
1. Pause before a big meeting
Most meetings flow in the same, counter-productive way. Everyone straggles into the conference room (or Zoom call), you talk about random office banter for a few minutes, and then, for the next 30 to 60 minutes, most people in the room are half paying attention to the meeting and half paying attention to their Instagram, Facebook, or email.
To avoid this, try inviting everyone to take 60 seconds to do what is needed to be present, whether this is checking that nagging notification, sending that text, or just taking a deep breath. By starting off with this moment of presence, you may find that everyone will feel more engaged and locked in.
2. Practice mindfulness on the go
While formal meditation is one practice you can implement into your day, effective leaders can also practice mindfulness more informally throughout the day. It’s the practice of following your breath for several minutes while riding in an Uber, focusing on sounds while you wait in the TSA security line at the airport, or noticing the sensations in your feet as you walk from your desk to the bathroom.
By turning these in-between moments into opportunities for mindfulness, you carve out space from the incessant distraction and information overload of modern life, space that allows you to stay grounded and present during even the most rushed and harried workdays.
3. Prioritize time without distractions
Many of the leaders we work with express a common challenge. They’re so busy fighting fires, attending meetings, and trying to reach the bottom of their inbox that they run out of time for their highest priority work. To avoid this trap, be sure to set aside untouchable time each day for full engagement for things like high-level strategy work.
The benefits of blocking calendar space for engagement are extraordinary. You may find that you get more done in a short time than you would otherwise get done in an entire day or even a week. Just be sure to guard this time with great caution - treat it with just as much importance as you would any other meeting on your calendar.
The Bottom Line
As we approach 2021, use this time to learn how to become the leader your team needs and admires. Be mindful, stay organized, and demonstrate the importance of caring for one’s well-being. This will ensure that your team is inspired, you grow together, and maintain a sound work-life balance going forward.
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