“Mindfulness isn’t anything that we think; it’s what we don’t think,” says Dr. Stephen McKenzie. “It is an ancient and natural life-enhancing and healing technique that can help us remember our natural state of happiness and health, even if we think we are too modern and too busy to prioritize what’s really important.”
Dr. McKenzie, author of the new book, Mindfulness at Work: How to avoid stress, achieve more, and enjoy life! (Career Press, September 2014), maintains how the practice of mindfulness—focusing our attention on what is rather than being distracted by what isn’t—can be a powerful antidote to the distractions and stresses of our modern working lives.
He says having a more mindful workplace is valuable for any company because it:
- Improves workers’ productivity
- Improves workers’ morale, connectedness, job satisfaction, enjoyment, and retention
- Reduces absenteeism (and “presenteeism”—unwell workers being ineffectively present)
- Reduces workplace accidents and litigation
- Improves workers’ psychological, emotional, and physical health
- Reduces workplace stress and the psychological, emotional, and physical problems that this can lead to
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Dr. McKenzie also offers these four techniques for mindfully expanding productivity and creativity in the workplace:
1. Fully focusing on whatever we are doing at work fully connects us with our deep creativity: When we are mindful we are fully connected to the reality of the present moment. When we are fully connected to the present moment, we eliminate unhelpful distractions from our work such as our ideas about how a work problem ‘should’ be solved. When we are mindful, we are naturally open to new and creative working solutions because we transcend the limitations of doing things the way that we or other people ‘should’ do them or have always done them.
2. Pausing between work activities helps us work creatively rather than reactively: When we get mentally stuck on our work problems, we lose our natural ability to create solutions. We can transcend our reactive and ruminating state of mind by letting go of one work activity before starting our next one—simply by pausing even for a few seconds and feeling our breath or body.
3. Stopping worrying about work problems and starting to solve them: We believe that thinking about a problem again and again and again will solve it. It won’t. Thinking dams our natural flow of creative consciousness, which will automatically generate creative solutions when we get out of its way.
4. Freely responding to what is happening at work rather than reacting rigidly to what might happen: Rigidity is the opposite of creativity. We become rigid when we think we know what to do. When we let go of our belief that we know the best and only way to work something out, we create creativity.
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In tomorrow’s Advisor, we’ll look at how technology hurts productivity—and get tips for boosting productivity anyway.