How to be mindful and bring intention into your work day

You may already practice mindfulness at home, but it's just as important to bring purpose and intention into your work day. It’s something I have been working on over the last few months and I am far more mindful towards my work now than I used to be. Sometimes my day passes so fast that I get to 5pm and realize I haven't even started on my most important project of the day, which means I either have to work late or postpone that important task for the next day.

Especially in a fast-paced environment (check!) when you have a lot of responsibility (check!), it's easy to lose sight of long-term goals. There are a couple of things I have learnt from bringing intention and awareness into the workplace, I find they work really well to slow down my day so I can stay focused and present. The best thing is that these tips work just as well if you work from home, run your own business or are climbing the corporate ladder at an office. Keep reading for mindfulness at work tips that will slow down your work week!

1) Start your day with the biggest, scariest task you have to tackle

My Mum has a book in her office called Eat That Frog. I have never read it, but I am willing to bet that it’s about prioritising the biggest, baddest task on your to-do list.

In order to be free to devote your morning to the task, you'll need to do a little preparation the night before, e.g. by writing bullet points on how to get the big, scary task done or spending an extra thirty minutes at work to finish smaller, urgent tasks that you have to get out the way first.

When I find a project daunting and feel like I have no idea where to start, I try and break it up into a series of simple, achievable steps. It's easier to get going and forces me to consider the right strategic approach to getting the task done right (much better than getting stuck half-way through!).

2) Turn off email, phone, Slack, WhatsApp and App notifications

Every time you get pinged by a notification, it takes determination and focus to push your attention back to the project you are working on. Do yourself a favour and turn off all notifications except for the most urgent. I have been doing this for over a year and it makes a huge difference to the quality of my work day. If you adopt only one tip from the list, try this one and see what a huge difference it makes when you claim back control of your time.

3) Turn your to-do list into a when-to-do list

You are more likely to complete a task if you schedule time for it than if you leave it sitting idly on your to-do list. I use a weekly spread where I write down all my major deadlines and meetings, and then set aside time for planning and preparation. This also helps me schedule time for things I want to do but would normally never get round to because they don't have a fixed deadline, like reading a news article relevant to my industry or completing an online course.

4) Create a calm and happy workplace environment

A few weeks ago I ran to Muji and bought myself a whole new stationary set (ahem. Like the weekly spread notebook I mention in point 2), file holder and pen holder (I also indulged in aromatherapy oils and a small plant that apparently only needs to be watered every month and so has a probable chance of survival). When I came home after this ‘errand run’ with the bulging Muji bag, I put on my best poker face and told my boyfriend it was scientifically proven that a relaxed work environment brought happiness and productivity at work. And then I promptly hid the receipt..

It’s been almost a month and I don’t regret it. I easily spend 40 hours a week at my desk and making is aesthetically pleasing helps me settle down when I arrive in the morning. Make your work station a place of serenity and you'll find it easier and more enjoyable to focus on what you have to do.

5) Use a focus app

Many people I know swear by the Pomodoro App, but I personally like Forest. The idea of planting a tree while I'm focusing on a task is appealing and I love that the App has an environmental side too (the App developers have teamed up with non-profit organisations to give users a chance to convert the trees they plan within the App to real trees planted in the real world!). I had downloaded the App on mobile and have it on the face of my Apple Watch, but I have just seen that there is a Chrome extension for it which I'm looking forward to trying out too!

Do you have any favourite Apps that help you focus? I am addicted to downloading and trying out new Apps and would love to hear your suggestions!

Image via Southern Living