By Leo Babauta
Three weeks into the Month of Mindfulness, and you’ve done some great work in creating small habits that are bringing mindfulness to your day, and teaching you about what it’s like to practice mindfulness.
Now let’s bring what we’ve learned to one of the more challenging areas: work.
What we’re going to tackle in the coming week is doing a small single-tasking work session, mindfully.
First, be sure to continue your previous three practices. Sitting meditation is the most important, so continue to put focus on sitting each day, even for just 2 minutes. Eating and walking meditation continue what you’re doing in sitting meditation, so keep those going each day as well to help spread the mindfulness to different parts of your life. If you find this to be too much, at the very least, do sitting meditation and tackle this week’s new practice.
Now let’s get into the Single-Tasking Focus Session.
Single-Tasking Focus Session – What & Why
This focus session is simply doing one work activity for 5 minutes, without distractions. And practicing mindfulness as you do it.
Why is this important? Well, this month we’re learning about how to bring mindfulness into all areas of our daily life. Work, for most of us, is a big part of our lives. But it’s hard to bring mindfulness to work because of so many distractions, and often lots of pressures and a fast pace and many moving parts.
Please note: For some of us, “work” can mean different things. Not everyone has a traditional job — some have the work of raising children, of making a household run, of taking care of other people, of volunteering. So whatever “work” means to you is fine.
But what if you could bring mindfulness to your work? What if it didn’t have to be a full 8 hours of distraction, but could be a mindfulness practice like any other activity?
What I’ve found is that when I do work mindfully, I not only have more focus and procrastinate less, I also enjoy the work more, and feel less exhausted at the end of my workday.
That’s not to say I work mindfully all the time — I’m still working on it. I practice but fail a lot. That’s totally fine — but we have to start somewhere.
Let’s start with just 5 minutes of practice.
Single-Tasking Focus Session – How To
OK, so how do we do this?
Here are the steps:
- Pick a trigger. When are you going to do your session? It could be when you first open up your laptop for the day, or when you first sit down at your desk, or the first 5 minutes after lunch. Pick something that happens every work day (whatever that means to you).
- Create a visual reminder. Put a note or some other kind of visual reminder wherever your trigger happens. If it’s your laptop, put a sticky note on your laptop so you don’t forget. Or a note on your desk. If it’s “after lunch”, put a phone reminder to go off when you tend to be coming back from lunch.
- Pick one task to work on. I like writing, but anything you can do for about 5 minutes without switching is good. If it’s in the browser, you should be able to close (or hide) all tabs but one. It could be something offline, or a physical task, or a pen-and-paper task. It can be different each day — just choose one for the day.
- Clear all distractions. Close all windows and tabs that you don’t need, turn off notifications, turn off your phone. Close the computer if you don’t need it. Just you and what you need for this task.
- Pause to think of your intention. Before you start, think about why you’re doing it, and who you’re doing it for. What is your intention? Something like, “To practice this task mindfully and learn about mindfulness” is fine. I like to tell myself, “To benefit my readers” (or kids or friend or whoever).
- Focus on the task for 5 minutes. Do the task, trying to stay in the present as you do it. Notice when you have urges to switch to something else. Notice when your mind wanders from the task. These are natural — just notice, then come back to the task.
For some of you, this might be difficult at first. That means you need to practice — and we all do. You’ll get better at practice.
What if you want to do it for longer than 5 minutes? That’s perfectly fine — but don’t set yourself a challenge of 1 hour a day or something like that — just make 5 minutes the minimum, and if you want to do more, that’s OK.
What if you fail? You might miss a day or forget when your trigger happens or get distracted and switch to email or social media during the middle of your single-tasking session. That’s OK. This is not about perfection, but about learning. Figure out a solution so you get better at it. Create extra reminders. Ask someone to give you accountability.