Feel like you are working more hours than ever before? Turns out that’s not your imagination. According to this 2014 Gallup Poll, adults employed full time in the U.S. report working an average of 47 hours per week, and nearly four in 10 say they work at least 50 hours. Yikes! If that’s the average and many go-getters are far exceeding those numbers, consider how challenging it is to be mindful about your life and the world overall. With the goal of helping us all become more present in the moment, here are five ways busy executives can become more mindful:
- Change your scenery. When your brain is used to being in the same places on a daily routine, it’s easy to zone out and not pay attention to your thoughts, or life as it is unfolding around you. A vacation is awesome, but you don’t have to go out of town to gain a different perspective. Instead of working at your desk through lunch, consider taking a 15-minute walk in a nearby park for a quick change of pace. When traveling for business, leave the confines of your hotel or conference center to explore historic sites and local attractions during breaks between meetings. After you leave the office at night, decompress by heading to a different neighborhood for a quiet dinner by yourself.
- Give technology a time-out. According to this article from The Guardian, a U.K. newspaper, social media platforms have designed their products to be as addictive as gambling. The same is true for email and texts, as you constantly hit refresh to see if any updates or interesting news has come through. Who can be mindful when you’re checking your work email every few minutes for feedback on a new business proposal, or Instagram to see if your newest picture has garnered any love? Chances are good the world is not going to end if you don’t check IM’s, texts, emails or social media for a couple of hours. Let co-workers know you’re taking a break for a night, a half-day or an entire weekend to clear your head and ensure back-up is in place to handle priority matters. If someone has an urgent need to reach you personally, ask them to give you a phone call instead.
- Try a five-minute meditation. While claiming an hour for ourselves could seem impossible, most of us can find a spare five minutes between waking and sleeping each day. I’m talking about time you already spend in the car pool line or riding the train home from work, the moments before eating breakfast or stepping out for some quick solitude in your backyard after dinner. Many smart phones allow you to download a free five-minute meditation application that clears your mind through guided breathing and imagery. Afterwards, you might be surprised at how refreshed and focused it feels.
- Start journaling. I start almost every day opening a new page on my computer and setting my intentions. When stuff gets crazy at work, I sometimes open a computer file and pose a question at the top of the page about a concern, challenge or opportunity to get clarity with a ten-minute stream of consciousness download on the subject. Other people prefer writing their thoughts into a beautifully bound book, typing notes into their cell phone or using a digital recorder to speak their truth and get insight by playing it back.
- Schedule an activity where being quiet is a prerequisite. I know some people do their best thinking and self-reflection in a yoga or Pilates class. My triathlete husband has gotten the same kind of experience during his training runs, swims and bike rides where checking his phone for messages isn’t an option. A massage can be a wonderful time to gain mindfulness while the soreness and stress is being pounded out of your body – just curb any need you have to make nervous chatter and ask your therapist to do the same.
How do you practice mindfulness? Have you faced any challenges in balancing your career with being mindful?