Mindfulness Tips to Help Boost Your Focus and Productivity

How to use mindfulness techniques to shift your perspective and improve the way you work.

Bearinmind/ Shutterstock
Bearinmind/ Shutterstock

Mindfulness, the simple practice of bringing acceptance and awareness to the present moment, has many benefits. And studies show that it can make a big impact in our work lives, with perks that include reducing stress and emotional exhaustion, as well as boosting focus, productivity, and even job satisfaction. But between countless Zoom calls, homeschooling responsibilities, and other distractions all around us in these current times, making time for mindfulness can be challenging.

So we asked our Thrive community to share their go-to strategies for bringing more mindful moments into their days. Which of these will you try?

Carve out small movement breaks

“I tend to get more distracted when working from home, and I have learned how to recenter myself with movement breaks. I take a walk outside for five minutes in the morning, which clears my mind before starting the workday. Then, when I get short breaks between meetings, I hop on my bike to go around the block, or squeeze in a quick workout. I have found that regular motion is key for me to calm my mind and body and be more present and mindful for the tasks ahead of me.”

—Isabelle Bart, marketing director, Orange County, CA

Pause for a 60-second meditation

“When I feel distracted, I pause and do a 60-second, super-powered, focus meditation on the Unplug meditation app. This snaps me back to the here and now, and makes me more mindful in my work.” 

—Suze Yalof Schwartz, CEO and founder of Unplug Meditation, Los Angeles, CA

Set a timer for focused work — and dedicated breaks

“Setting a timer throughout my workday has been really helpful. Every other hour, I work for 45 minutes and take 15 minutes for ‘me time.’  During those 15 minutes, I can scroll through my phone, go for a walk in nature, or do a bit of stretching. Child’s pose is known for alleviating stress, anxiety and tension, and I’ve found that it’s also a game-changer for my focus level.”

—Noel Elie, Actress, CEO, and wellness advocate, Los Angeles, CA

Take breaks for controlled breathing

“It can be challenging to practice mindfulness while surrounded by colleagues, incoming calls, emails, and meetings. So I return to this little ritual of controlled breathing throughout the workday: Sit in a chair, place your hands on your knees, close your eyes, and fill your lungs with air. Hold the inhale for two seconds and very slowly exhale. Repeat for a few minutes, then just sit and notice how your body feels. Look around you and see how the world seems to have slowed down.”

—Nicole F., artist and blogger 

Look out the window in between tasks

“I am blessed to live on a farm where our nearest neighbor is two kilometers (1.25 miles) away. I have set up my desk so it faces our backyard. I spend a couple of minutes every hour, particularly if I am doing lots of Zoom calls, just looking outside at the birds, the cows, and the occasional kangaroo. Sometimes, I close my eyes and listen to the wind chimes when there is a breeze. This helps me come back to my work refreshed and more focused.”

—Danette Fenton-Menzies, director of learning, Gundagai, Australia

Repeat a mantra you love

“My favorite mindfulness strategy is one I use every day, and it’s a four-word mantra: ‘Stay in the conversation.’  Finding a few words that reposition your perspective and challenge you to stay on task and focused on aligning with the day at hand is a powerful way to stay true to yourself and productive at the same time. Throughout the day, I will purposefully ask myself how I am staying in the conversation with my clients, with myself, or with a specific project. Having and using a mantra that is unique and compelling to you is a great action tool for clarity and for fine-tuning focus.”

—Randi Levin, transitional life strategist, NJ/NY

Try “unconscious writing”

“I try to start my morning with unconscious writing, and I find it makes me more mindful throughout the day. I sit quietly away from my computer and let my mind and intuition flow through my pen onto paper. It’s a cleansing of the mind and a great way to start my day with clarity and focus. I think of some of my greatest ideas and strategies during this time.”

—Laurie Jonas, blogger, Red Wing, MN

Observe — really observe — an item around you

“When I feel the current of the day dragging me along, I pause and focus on something beautiful, such as the detail on the ceramic clock that I bought in Rome many years ago. Just taking a minute to appreciate the craftsmanship, colors, and the gentle ticking of the clock calms me down. Then, I return my attention to whatever I need to focus on. This technique works wherever you are. Simply focus on something of beauty and hone in on the details of color, shape, texture, or sound.”

—Beverly Landais, executive coach, Tunbridge Wells, UK

Set gratitude reminders

“To stay mindful during the day, I set timers — for gratitude. Sometimes I’m grateful for getting through a task, and sometimes I take a little longer to reflect on what I’m thankful for, perhaps something that is or is not happening in my life. Either way, having a little reminder for gratitude every few hours makes me be more mindful in whatever task I’m working on.”

—Stephanie L. Shaw, health and wellness Coach, Warren, OH

Practice time-blocking

“I practice time-blocking to help keep me focused and mindful throughout the day. Knowing that I am ‘scheduled’ to be working on a particular task or project at a certain time allows me to focus completely without worrying that I should be doing something else. And with digital learning here to stay for the time being, I even block in time throughout the day to help my girls get situated for school. Time-blocking helps prevent me from becoming overcommitted; if there’s not an available block in my schedule for something, I know I don’t have time to get it done that day or week. Then I can make a decision to reschedule, re-prioritize, or better yet, delegate!”

—Tricia Sciortino, CEO, Charlotte, NC

How do you stay mindful during your workday? Share with us your tips in the comments.

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