Mindfulness at work has been gathering popularity of late. Apps like Headspace and events such as Wisdom 2.0 have taken the theory of mindfulness away from the periphery and brought it closer to the mainstream.
In an effort to create a high-performance culture and have my team be at their best, this space has intrigued me. Early approaches were unattractive as I couldn’t tie the activity with a measurable outcome for my team or company.
The measurability of mindfulness has come to the fore of late, making it more accessible to a broader audience. Practitioners such as Chade Meng Tan, Google’s “Jolly Good Fellow”, who developed their popular Search Inside Yourself program, Rich Fernandez of Wisdom Labs and Samantha Graham (full disclosure – Samantha is my sister) who runs Out Of Your Mind all emphasise real-world ways to measure mindfulness.
Mindfulness and mind-training tools
First, let’s talk terms. What is mindfulness? Responses range from a rather painful daily meditation practice that is impossible to adhere to, to donning saffron robes and heading to Tibet. While both are extreme perceptions, it is mind-training tools that make the subject more relatable. In a company setting, employees and management learn new tools—mind-training tools—to do their job better. There is a selection to choose from. You learn how to use them, create a habit, keep each other accountable and, lo and behold, productivity increases. Tools are applied as each day unfolds and that’s the best part about it. There is instant integration and feedback. The practise is just like any muscle. In the beginning it feels a little odd but in a short period of time you can see results.
At its core, mind training increases the depth and breadth of mental capabilities. It is like taking a fuzzy image and transforming it into HD—seeing things with clarity, communicating clearly, being aware of your own energy and that of your colleagues and responding to that in the moment.
One tool at work
In our modern society the move is to cram as much as you can into limited hours. Multi-tasking is the norm. The glow of the Smartphone last thing at night and first thing in the morning is the reality for 71% of respondents asked in a 2015 Bank of America survey on Consumer Mobility(1). 35% said that the first thing they do in the morning is check their Smartphones. The office has effectively made its way into our bedrooms as we attempt to cram more work into less time.
However, research shows that a tremendous amount of time is wasted in spite of and sometimes because of our attempts to do more with less. It has been demonstrated that multi-tasking is a fallacy. The more accurate term is switch tasking (moving from one half-completed task to another) and it is extremely inefficient. Perversely, it gives the impression of efficiency but the data shows that all it really achieves is a show of busy-ness.
If we think about where our energy goes, rather than our time, a new picture emerges. Consider the following 6 areas making up the rather delightful acronym of CRAP VW(2). People tend to lose a huge amount of their daily energy on one or more of the following.
- Complaining—about others
- Resisting—starting something
- Avoidance—of people or tasks
- Procrastination—failing to finish what you have started
- Vampires—people who take your energy away
- Worry—of all potential future outcomes that may or may not happen
In terms of ROI, there is no return on energy spent on these 6 areas. It does not serve you in any way. If you find that 75% of your day is spent losing energy around these areas, that’s most of each day gone. There are obvious implications for productivity. With this one mind-training tool we can become aware of where are our energy goes currently and then choose to spend our energy differently, productively and mindfully.