Overcoming productivity barriers with mindfulness

Here are some common barriers to being really productive at work, and the practical mindfulness practices that can help.

1. Lack of concentration and focus

Practise paying attention to a single object on your desk. Notice every detail of it, the colour, the texture etc and describe these details to yourself.

This will help train your attention to a chosen focal point and being more able to focus when you choose.

2. Distracted and annoyed by noise of colleagues and general office workings

Practise paying mindful attention to sound, as though you are a receiver of the sound waves, noticing the frequency, intensity and duration, rather than following the sound or labelling it, e.g. a door shutting, photocopier beeping.

Helps reduce the thoughts that often accompany these sounds, such as “Why won’t they just be quiet and let me get on?!” or “How come they’re not busy and I’m still slaving away?” Leads to being less distracted and increases productivity.

3. Feeling physically tired due to rushing around, or shuffling paper but not achieving much

Try a short whole-body scan. Start at your head and work down to your toes, noticing any physical sensations such as tingling, heat, coolness, pressure. Just describe each sensation, before moving to the next body part.

Increases awareness of how your body is right now and what it needs to be refreshed. Also, you are more likely to notice those early signs of fatigue so you can take recovery action sooner.

4. Not able to generate new ideas or solutions as usual?

Practise a short mindful breathing exercise. Notice any thoughts of frustration and impatience with yourself and others. Merely observe these thoughts rather than entering into them. Now, sit quietly for few minutes and do nothing.

Again, helps reduce those thoughts that we get caught up in and allows us to return to the task with curiosity rather than frustration.

More evidence that long working hours are counterproductive

The urge to “push on through” signs of fatigue or a deterioration in performance can be a strong one. However, we know this does not lead to effective working or greater productivity: https://hbr.org/2015/08/the-research-is-clear-long-hours-backfire-for-people-and-for-companies

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