Can’t take your mind off your upcoming holidays? It’s that time of year. We have ideas for how to rest not only your body but also your mind as we head into August. Removed from the day-to-day stresses of the workplace, summer can be an ideal time to practice mindfulness. It can make your holidays more restful and help you return to work in full mental form. Here we have some suggestions on how to get started with mindfulness, based on the writings of IESE Prof. Alberto Ribera.
It is increasingly difficult to concentrate on a single topic. We live in an era of multi-tasking, always connected and glued to our mobiles. Constant stimuli and non-stop interruptions generate stress, promote mental dispersion and undermine productivity and well-being at work.
Faced with this reality, companies such as General Motors, eBay, AstraZeneca and Toyota have launched programs to cultivate mindfulness, a useful tool to free the mind of the overload that prevents us from concentrating 100% on the task at hand. Mindfulness allows you to take a more detached view of emotions and biases, turn off the auto pilot and develop more conscious and, therefore, more efficient responses.
Mindfulness has numerous benefits: it facilitates concentration, improves memory, reduces stress, increases physical and mental well-being, helps manage emotions … and much more. While it is beneficial on a personal level, its positive effects transcend the individual and also have a positive impact on the company. Mindfulness increases productivity and commitment, helps in making decisions, fosters creativity, improves social relationships and betters the work environment.
Advice to train your attention
Mindfulness is not about changing reality, but rather the way we perceive it. The practice of full consciousness consists of redirecting attention towards what is relevant. This is done by encouraging the attention to “rest” by focusing on a single element or object, usually breathing or body sensations. Each time the mind wanders and disconnects from that element, you have to try to return your concentration to it. With practice, attention becomes increasingly stable and distractions are reduced.
Attention is like a muscle that gets stronger with exercise and which, therefore, can be trained. There are different techniques to achieve this state of attention and full consciousness. We propose four that you can practice this holiday:
- Avoid getting distracted for a few minutes
Are you aware of how easy it is to lose concentration? This activity will allow you to become aware of it. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Count to 10 while focusing on inhaling and exhaling, without thinking about anything else. When you notice that you start thinking about other things, try to re-focus your mind on your breathing once again.
- Savor a raisin
Really? Yes, savor a raisin. Have you ever stopped to think about the difference between doing something automatically and doing it consciously? This exercise will help you. Take a raisin (or any other food of small dimensions that you like) and eat it slowly. Savor it, enjoy the flavors and pay attention to what you’re feeling. It can help you if you close your eyes. Concentrate fully on this experience, and you will see the intense flavor that something as small as a raisin can offer you.
- Take a conscious walk
Are you able to enjoy a walk or do you find it hard to slow down? Take advantage of the holidays to take walks alone, walking slowly and paying attention to every movement. This is not about power walking. This is about concentrating on your breathing and enjoying each step. If you notice that other thoughts keep intruding, set them aside and focus your mind back on the walk itself.
- Enjoy the coffee ritual
Do you value small daily pleasures? Take your morning coffee or tea. Breakfast is a good time to practice mindfulness. Put aside the mobile and concentrate on the process of preparing juice, coffee, tea, toast … When everything is ready, savor each drink and each bite. With this simple exercise, you will start the day with energy!
As you can see, these are simple exercises that you can perform at any time of the day. It’s worth giving them a try. If you manage to incorporate them into your daily routine and spend a few minutes each day connecting with yourself, you will see how your attention span improves over time.
Other activities, such as yoga and meditation, can also help you to train full consciousness. We have some suggested reading below, that can help you to learn techniques to manage stress and improve resilience through mindfulness.
It’s all part of becoming a stronger leader through personal development. For other areas, from general management to specific competencies and topics, IESE has a wide portfolio of Executive Education programs. Check them out!
Mindfulness: Multiply Productivity Through Undivided Attention, by Alberto Ribera and José Luis Guillén in IESE Insight, issue 20, first quarter 2014.
Mindfulness and Business, by José Luis Guillén and Alberto Ribera. IESE, DPON-113-E, 2014.
This post is also available in: Spanish