By Elena Foucher, Mindfulness Coach
As summer holidays come to a close, we're all getting ready for that long stretch of work ahead. For some of us the contrast between work and holiday can feel a bit extreme this time of year. We start asking ourselves how to bring some of our holiday ease back to work with us?
One way to enjoy work is to be more efficient, so that we spend less time on tasks, especially ones we don't like. Many of us dread certain tasks because they take forever or feel tedious or unpleasant. Tasks we like feel easier and more enjoyable already, and even those can be performed with more ease if we can sustain focus.
Mindfulness meditation is a great way to improve performance. Accuracy, efficiency and other executive functions can all be improved according to studies by researchers such as Cognitive Neuroscientist, Dr. YiYuan Tang (1). Even with short term studies of five 20-minute mindfulness practices, cognitive measures improved 10 times over non-meditators (2). And as we improve these important mental functions, tasks become easier and more enjoyable.
How does mindfulness help? Mindfulness is attention training. It helps us learn how to concentrate better, namely to focus on a task, notice what is happening internally and externally and manage distractions with minimal disruption.
Let's say you're working on your least favorite project. You're likely to let unrelated things distract you such as emails, phone calls, or off-topic research; rationalizing them as equally important. You might even drift off during an important meeting, missing crucial information, because you're not engaged. If you have emotional disruptions as well like colleagues you don't like, that can make things even more difficult.
If you bring mindfulness to the task, you're able to notice yourself getting distracted by the email, quickly determine it's relevance and answer it or not with little disruption. This kind of attention management helps you complete the task much more quickly. The increased focus also means better accuracy, so you're less likely to have to return to fix mistakes. Even better when you're working with the disagreeable colleague, you are able to notice your emotions and mange them better, improving how you feel and your relationship.
With these kinds of benefits, you can understand why mindfulness is known for stress reduction. What you may not have known was how it helps you improve your performance at work. Mindfulness is a great way to bring that summer ease back to work with you.
(1) Tang, Y., et al. Short-term meditation training improves attention and self-regulation (2007), doi:10.1073/pnas.0707678104
(2) University of North Carolina at Charlotte. "Brief meditative exercise helps cognition." ScienceDaily, 19 April 2010.