August 18, 2016

Mindfulness Practice to Avoid Professional Burnout

There’s a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson that should be the screen saver for every professional:
“What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.”
It’s a good reminder that we are ultimately in charge of our happiness; our outlook is based on how we approach and manage the stress of professional life.

It’s no wonder then, that there’s been a lot of buzz lately about an age-old practice: mindfulness. Though it originates from Buddhist traditions, it’s been reclaimed and made relevant for our modern-day, high-stress lifestyle.  In essence, mindfulness is all about moment-to-moment awareness or applying intention and attention to what you’re doing right now. The results can be not just a reduction in stress, but an increase in productivity, focus, concentration and even memory retention.  In fact, many Silicon Valley execs have jumped on board and are implementing this practice to help employees manage anxiety and even improve conflict resolution within teams.

While not all companies are going to follow suit, there are simple ways to adopt the basics of this practice.  Below are some key words to remember so you can start enjoying the benefits of staying in the here and now and maybe even finding some enlightenment along the way:

1. Meditate

Meditation may seem daunting especially with all of the distractions surrounding us, but all the more reason why sitting quietly for just 10 or 20 minutes a day can do wonders to clear the clutter in our brains and allow more space for creative thoughts. Like any new skill, it takes practice, but fortunately there are tools that can help. Headspace, a popular app, provides an initial set of free 10-minute guided meditations so all you have to do is close your eyes and follow the prompts from the soothing voice.

2. Pause

As important as it is to take time to clear your thoughts, it’s equally important to let them wander. Spend a few minutes each day letting your stream of consciousness do its thing. You never know where your next brilliant idea could come from, so it’s a good idea to jot down notes or sketches that you want to revisit later. An easy tool for this is the Bamboo Spark, a smart notebook that lets you write as you would with pen and paper but saves notes digitally so you can edit later or share and collaborate with colleagues.


3. Mantra

Some styles of meditation incorporate a mantra: a word, sound or phrase to repeat during a session.   A mantra can also be used to set an intention; establishing the outcome for a project or maybe even your role in completing it. By identifying a mantra—whether it be at the start of each day or before you embark on a task—you can also underscore why you work where you do and how you contribute to the company.  This can be especially useful for those agonizing weekly meetings or conference calls that often feel futile. Ultimately, creating a mantra helps give purpose to everything, no matter how seemingly insignificant it may initially appear.

4. Listen

Your teachers reminded you to be quiet and listen during important lessons, but it’s applicable now, too. One familiar scenario: instead of listening to a presenter, we’re busy on our laptops typing an email and pretending to multitask. Instead, show you’re actively listening by taking the tech away. Get back to pen and paper and really pay attention to your colleague, your manager or the client on the call instead of tuning them out with tech. Not only can it help train your brain to focus on one thing at a time, you may be surprised by what you hear.

5. Review

Now that you’ve applied all of these practices, it’s important to take stock of all that you’ve done and give some closure to the day, to clear your mind so you can start again fresh and unencumbered. You can even keep a record of these accomplishments with a tool like the Bamboo Spark which lets you save your notes digitally so you edit and access them anywhere, even when you’re traveling. As you take time to reflect on your progress, you can also appreciate that it was you who made it happen.

Check out our post on productivity hacks here. And see how entrepreneur John Gannon uses Bamboo Spark to slow down and get his thoughts in order.


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