Being able to give your full attention to a task or goal at work is fundamental to completing or achieving it in a timely and productive manner. Many of us including our employers underestimate just how important attention to the job at hand really is to staff performance, productivity and their happiness in the workplace. With each year that passes, technology increases in speed or there is another tool or distraction created that draws attention away from from the job you need to do. Effectively your attention becomes divided, giving you less time and sporadic focus on the main roles of your job. Being able to focus and maintain your attention on a particular task becomes more difficult and more important with more distractions. Focused attention is a skill that can be programmed into the mind and once learnt will help in many areas of life including work.
Being mindful requires us to focus on the here and now by being in the present moment instead of just allowing our minds to wander with no form of monitoring. Effectively it’s a form of attention focus and to be able to complete your tasks effectively and with fewer errors you need to be focused on the task at hand. Contrary to popular belief human minds are not capable of multitasking, they are only capable of thinking of one thing at a time. What human brains are good at is jumping from one thought to another so quickly that it seems like multitasking. This means you are not fully focusing your attention on just one thing while this is happening and this is where mindfulness comes in.
Typically to start with mindfulness teaches you to focus on your breath only, this trains your mind to maintain focus in the present moment on your breath. It also teaches you that when your mind does wander that this is okay, but attention needs to be brought back to your breathing again making you refocus your attention. Studies show that this action of focusing on your breath and re-focusing when the mind wanders trains your brain and effectively creates a process that can be applied for focusing on other things too.
By practicing mindfulness consistently you will notice that at work when you have a specific task to complete and you are being distracted by emails, telephone calls, social media and colleagues that you will find refocusing easier saving you time and mistakes. Ideally mindfulness will show you that you can maintain focus on the task at hand even while other distractions occur by acknowledging their occurrence and accepting that they will be dealt with after your task is complete.
A simple task to help train your mind for better attention is at the start of the working day or in a break, set the timer on you mobile phone for a minute and in that minute focus only on your breathing. Notice the breath coming in through your nostrils, the air moving down into your lungs and effect on your body as the air is exhaled through your mouth. If your mind wanders, this is fine and don’t criticise yourself, just bring your attention back to your breathing again.
As you become more proficient at maintaining your focus you will also start to be able to control where your focus is placed. You will be able to consciously move attention from one task to another as you choose instead of reacting to the latest call on your attention. This will not only benefit you at work but will also help in all areas of your life and help you understand how important attention and focus are for whatever you are trying to achieve in life.