For the last few years, mindfulness has been getting a lot of attention and press.
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, a leading thinker in the field, mindfulness is about “Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” It is about being more in the present and thereby being able to do everything with more discipline and focus.
The Case For Mindfulness
Large companies, such as Google, Aetna, and General Mills, have been implementing large-scale mindfulness programs over the past few years. Thousands of employees have gone through their programs with data now showing that there is a definite impact on leadership skills by practicing mindfulness, such as:
• Increase in productivity
• Increase in decision-making
• Increase in listening
• Reduction in stress levels
But for leaders, the biggest benefit of mindfulness is its direct impact on the development of emotional intelligence. Daniel Goleman, a leading expert on emotional intelligence, recently made a direct connection between mindfulness and emotional intelligence, saying that:
•Emotional intelligence builds attention and focus.
• Attention and focus are cornerstones in enhancing self-awareness, as well as empathy.
• Self-awareness and empathy are critical skills for enhancing emotional awareness.
Google’s mindfulness program focuses directly on the link between mindfulness and emotional intelligence, and it’s had some significant traction with employees.
How Leaders Can Implement Mindfulness
Mindfulness tools include meditation, breathing, yoga, walking, music, nature — anything that allows you to come back to the present moment. Our minds are often thinking about regrets, incidents from the past and worries about the future. Any tool that brings the mind back to the present moment is a mindfulness tool.
As a mindfulness practitioner of meditation and breathing for the last 10 years, I have seen significant changes in myself in terms of the enhancement of emotional regulation, patience, discipline, focus, and productivity, as well as a decrease in stress. While I used to use physical exercise, such as running marathons and doing triathlons, meditation has now become my tool of choice for reducing stress levels and being more productive.
So how can you as a leader get started? What tools can you use in your organization to bring yourself into the present moment?
1. Body Scan: Begin by sitting with your back straight and eyes closed. Take three deep breaths in and begin to notice your feet and legs, calves and thighs, groin and abdomen. Continue up the body and then take another three deep breaths. Continue for a total of three times. This is a great way to get in tune with your body and begin to notice any stress or strains. The breaths help you to relieve tension.
2. Alternate Nostril Breathing: Using your thumb and index finger, you can do an easy breathing exercise called alternate nostril breathing. With your right index finger, close your right nostril and take a breath in through the left nostril. Now, close the left nostril with your thumb. Open up your index finger and breathe out through the right nostril. Then breathe in the through the right nostril. Close the right nostril with the index finger. Open up the thumb and breathe out through the left nostril. Continue doing this eight-to-ten times. This helps to calm the system as well as harmonize the two hemispheres of the brain.
3. Breathing Meditation: Sit with your back straight and eyes closed. Begin to notice your breath. Notice your breath in and your breath out. Keep your focus on your breath. Whenever you notice your mind wandering off, bring it back to noticing the breath. Do this for three-to-five minutes. This is the start of meditation practice. It is a simple and easy way to start training your mind to be more present.
While mindfulness can seem like a hard thing to do, as mindfulness expert Sharon Salzberg says, “Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.” Begin a practice today.
POST WRITTEN BY
Monica Thakrar on Forbes.com
Anyone who’s held the same job or position for a number of years may encounter the sinking feeling of burnout. You no longer feel the passion for the job you’re in, and you crave something new and exciting.
Moving on and pursuing a new position, even a new career move, can be an option, but sometimes it’s just not practical. In that case, you need to focus on how to quell the symptoms of burnout before they take you down.
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What is Burnout?
Burnout sounds fairly harsh … but what does it mean? According to one definition, “Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest or motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.”
When burnout occurs, productivity wanes, energy collapses, motivation disappears, and you might begin to feel cynical, resentful, even hopeless. If you experience these emotions for a number of weeks or months, you’re increasingly likely to cave in and make poor decisions. In many cases, people who suffer from prolonged work burnout ultimately leave their jobs, one way (resignation) or another (termination).
While burnout can occur in any facet of life, it most commonly occurs in a person’s career or job. That’s because the average person spends between 35 and 50 hours a week working for an employer. When you spend that much of your time doing one thing, you’re prone to “burning out.”
The Primary Causes of Job Burnout
We’ll discuss ways to prevent job burnout in the next section, but first let’s review some of the primary causes, so that you can watch for the warning signs in your own career.Excess repetition.Insufficient compensation.No environmental variance.Little room for upward mobility.No camaraderie with peers.High stress with no down time.
Burnout is a very job-specific and personal phenomenon. While the six causes listed above are by far the most common, any combination of undesirable factors can potentially lead to job burnout.
Three Tips for Avoiding and Preventing Burnout
You shouldn’t wait until you begin to experience the symptoms of job burnout. Even if you love your work and as if there’s no way you could ever become unhappy in your current position, the following tips might be helpful.
They’ll enable you to avoid burnout altogether. If you’re currently experiencing possible symptoms, following these tips may empower you to overcome burnout before it ruins your career.Use Your Vacation Days
Did you know that U.S. employees use only 51 percent of their eligible paid vacation days and paid time off? Fully 40 percent of American workers waste at least some of that time to which they’re entitled.
While the survey that compiled this data noted that “company culture” and a “lack of encouragement from management to take time off” are two of the primary reasons that workers end up not making use of vacation time, many employees don’t use their days because they believe they need to work all the time.
What you need to accept is that taking vacation days doesn’t have to be a mark against your work ethic or character. Vacation days were designed to be used. If you aren’t taking your two weeks — or whatever you’re entitled to by contract — then you’re working too much.
According to Karin Klinger, who spends her time helping IT professionals train and study, taking a break is beneficial for a number of reasons. Her top three reasons are that vacations:
By taking vacation days, you can recharge on the mental, physical, and social levels. That’s incredibly important. And though you may not feel the slightest bit burned out at the moment, it’ll eventually catch up with you if you make a habit of leaving vacation days on the table.Change Up Your Routine and Environment
Sometimes avoiding job burnout is as simple as changing up your routine and surroundings. If you’re working in the same cubicle for 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, for years on end, do you really expect to stay energized?
Most employers will have no problem if you ask to move your office every now and then. If it’s good for your productivity, it’s going to be good for their bottom line. If moving offices or cubicles isn’t possible, try rearranging your current one or adding new decorations from time to time.Communicate with Your Employer
Despite what you may think, your employer doesn’t exist for the sole purpose of making you miserable. Any decent manager knows that happy employees are productive employees … and that has a positive impact on the company’s profitability and reputation.
As soon as you notice symptoms of burnout, set up a meeting to talk with your boss. Let management know how you’re feeling and ask them if they have any ideas. Make it clear you’re not giving up on the job, but you want to shake things up in a positive way.
Hiring new employees is expensive, so most employers would much rather help you figure things out than have to replace you.
Don’t Wait Until You’re Burned Out
Job burnout is an interesting subject because it’s potentially preventable, but almost impossible to overcome once you’re experiencing it. That means you can’t afford to wait until you’re burned out to do something.
By waiting, you’re essentially putting a nail in the proverbial coffin of your career. That being said, you shouldn’t feel intimidated or afraid if you begin to experience burnout symptoms.
Anyone who’s been in the same career or field for a number of years is bound to experience fatigue from time to time. The key is to deal with the symptoms and find the underlying causes as soon as possible.