How To Be More Focused and Present With Mindful Leadership

An Ink+Volt feedback pad, a planner, a pen, and other papers on a white table

Mindful leadership is the practice of being more present and attentive in your work life.

And between all the urgent work emails, quarterly benchmarks, and office politics, it can be hard to keep our cool at work. And if you’re in a manager position, it can be a challenge juggling all of your interpersonal responsibilities with your most important tasks to get done each day.

Instead of burning yourself out by trying to achieve perfection (impossible), try to take a step back and add mindfulness to your day.

We all know that having a regular mindfulness routine can improve our mental and physical well-being, but did you know that it can improve your work life? Here are some of the ways that mindfulness can positively impact you at work:

  • Clear your mind of distractions and focus on the task at hand
  • Manage emotions during high stress situations
  • Be less judgmental when problems or conflicts arise
  • Be less critical of yourself 

Whether you’re a manager or an entry-level employee or a freelancer, you can utilize mindfulness in your work to help you improve relationships with colleagues or clients, make better decisions, and stay focused on assignments and long-term goals.

Below, we’ve provided tips and exercises to help you develop a regular mindfulness routine and incorporate mindfulness into your work day.

Practice daily mindfulness

In order to fully reap the benefits of mindfulness, it’s important to have a regular practice that allows you to slow down and reflect. Below are some simple mindfulness exercises that you can practice starting today. 

Reflect on your day. Whenever you’re feeling burned out or overwhelmed, it can be hard to pinpoint what exactly is making you feel this way. In fact, it’s easy to just blame this feeling on, well, everything. But that’s why it’s so valuable to incorporate reflection into our everyday. Daily reflection can help you notice what's missing, what's working, and what steps you need to take the next day to feel nourished, energized, and inspired. 

Plan for each day. By taking a few minutes each day to think about your most important goals and tasks, you ensure that you won't spend the day running around playing catchup. When you take a holistic look at each day, you bring mindfulness to your planning process. Use the Top 3 Today notepad to bring your day into focus: do the work that matters, without distraction.

Meditation. A meditation practice helps you slow down, focus on your breath, and appreciate the present moment--it is the very essence of mindfulness. Meditation has been known to lower stress levels, improve learning and memory, focus your attention, and manage your emotions -- these are all areas that would benefit you in the workplace, helping you to become a more compassionate, productive, and adept leader. 

You don’t have to dedicate an hour a day to benefit from this exercise. Start small and try meditating for 2-3 minutes a day. Use an app like Headspace or follow this New York Times Guide to get started. To hold yourself accountable, use your Ink+Volt Planner to record when and how long you’ve been meditating--keeping track of a new habit will help you stay motivated and stick with it. 

While meditation is a great way to practice mindfulness and experience its mental and physical benefits, there are other simple ways to incorporate a daily mindfulness routine, including:

Even something as mundane as knitting or washing the dishes can help you become more mindful. Any activity that allows you to concentrate on the present task and clear your mind of distraction, will help you relax and be in the moment. 

Don’t worry if negative thoughts arise or if you get distracted during your practice. Many people think that mindfulness is about trying to completely empty your mind of all thoughts and that if any internal chatter occurs, then you’re doing it incorrectly. But it’s the practice of recognizing those thoughts and then telling yourself to return to the present moment, that will actually help you become more mindful. 

How to incorporate mindfulness at work

Be more present with colleagues

The next time you have a performance review or a  one-on-one meeting with a colleague, incorporate mindfulness by being present, engaged, and compassionate before and during. This is an opportunity to get to know your team member and positively contribute to their day, and even their career - and your full attention and presence will enhance the impact.

Prepare your thoughts and an agenda ahead of time; this will ensure that both of you get the most out of the meeting, help you stick to priorities, and remain fully engaged. 

Mindfulness can also help you give more valuable feedback for performance reviews or quarterly reviews, or even just day-to-day. Giving feedback is a special skill; it takes patience, compassion, and grace to do it well. The more present you can be both while reviewing someone's work and while preparing how best to go over the feedback with them, the more focused and accurate you will be.

Being present in the moment of giving feedback is critical too. It is so easy to become frustrated or shut down when giving feedback, especially if the person pushes back or has an emotional reaction. Instead of being uncomfortable or irritated, mindfulness can help you really listen to the person and continue the conversation with empathy and guidance.

Be more present in meetings

We’ve all been in meetings where we’ve discreetly been on our phones the entire time. While it’s hard to be fully present in every single work meeting and interaction, you can still try to be more present and mindful.

Maybe this means taking notes during a meeting so that you can better retain information or maybe you can empower colleagues who are giving presentations by giving positive feedback. Or maybe you can use mindfulness to help you take the pulse of a meeting. If you sense any tension between colleagues or if the meeting is veering away from the agenda, you can help steer the conversation back to the agenda on hand. 

Be mindful of your reactions

Maybe you received an urgent request from senior leadership or you’re dealing with an interpersonal conflict with a colleague or you got negative feedback on a project. Your first impulse might be to overreact or even lash out others, but instead of letting your emotions take the lead, try to pause and step away. The mere act of breathing will allow you to rein in your emotions, and help you re-align your focus to the present.

The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, try a short meditation exercise or go for a walk to help you decompress.

Make mindful decisions

Whether you’re an executive, manager, or in an entry-level position, you’re constantly making decisions in your daily work life. Sometimes it’s high stakes decisions that can impact the welfare of your company and your team. Or sometimes it can be trying to decide on a candidate to hire or choosing between two jobs. 

When you need help making complex, strategic decisions, you can try making a pros and cons list or using a Decisions notepad to help organize your thoughts and weigh all the factors, and look at the issue in a holistic and systematic way. 

In a high-stress, high stakes environment, it can be hard trying to listen to your inner voice and figure out the best decisions for you and your colleagues. Instead of making snap decisions or allowing ego or emotions to determine the outcome, take the time to slow down and consider your decision more thoughtfully. 

By breaking down the problem or issue and examining it from different sides, you’ll start to feel less overwhelmed by the decision, and more empowered and engaged.

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