I’m a programmer by day. That means I spend my day knee deep in code on a computer, and a lot of that is on the web. So needless to say, I’ve got distractions constantly vying for my attention. If I wasn’t ADD prior to starting my career, I definitely am now.
I’ve also been practicing being more mindful in my everyday existence. Not only to make me more efficient and productive throughout the workday, but to be the best person I can be for myself, friends and family.
I’ve been using a set of habits throughout my day to help let go of the distractions and bring me closer to the present. Sure, distractions still pop in every so often, but these habits have me better equipped to handle them. I call it my “Mindful Workday" and here’s the breakdown:
One of the first things I do when I wake up is meditate. Before the flurry of emails, texts, Slacks, IM’s and notifications start filling up my brain space, I find it helpful to allow my brain to get a little space. I appreciate the sleep I just had, and I'm grateful I’m alive to even be dealing with all this wonderful stuff. And most importantly, it sets a tone for the rest of the day that helps me deal with just about anything thrown my way.
I also try to get an early afternoon mediation in as well. (Usually after lunch.) This helps to get me back into the zone and finish the day off strong.
I’ve been practicing meditation for a few years now. I was off and on for a while, but started to take it seriously a little over a year ago. I’ve noticed it keeps my mind present and still and helps me to stay calm and focused during the more reactive parts of my day.
I’ve been practicing the Pomodoro technique for many years. I love it. I swear by it. Incorporating it into my workflow has been the single greatest productivity booster I’ve come across.
If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a simple technique to break up your work day. Set a timer for 25 minutes with a clear task in mind, and then work! Non-stop. No distractions for all 25 minutes. Then, take a 5 minute break. During this time, do whatever you like. Walk around. Look into those distractions. And then rinse and repeat. After 4 work Pom’s, take a 20 minute break.
I use the longer breaks to get in a meditation if I missed one, respond to emails, grab a snack or write.
The breaks are just as important as the working sessions.
The breaks are just as important as the working sessions. It’s important to stick to them and allow yourself that break. The focus of working on one thing non-stop for 25 minutes will start to wear on me if I don’t take the break. It allows my brain to process what we did, and get ready for what’s next.
When I’m bad and not doing my Pom’s I tend to be a little more dull and lethargic by the end of the day. These are the days I also tend to feel like I’m just spinning my wheels. A full day of Pom’s leaves me feeling accomplished and refreshingly energetic into the evening. (Here's the Pomodoro software I use, but there are many options.)
Morning Pages is an idea that came from the book, The Artist’s Way. The idea is that you write 3 handwritten pages, or about 750 typed words, in the morning. It’s free writing. There really are no rules other than that. I use it as a brain dump to get everything out of my head and onto something else so I can process what really matters. I’ve found it helps to plan what I need to do, uncork the creative juices and is especially helpful when I have trouble getting started with something. I tend to sneak this in on my first 20-minute Pomodoro break.
I like to journal about how my days go. I use Daily Minded for this. I structure my replies out with headings like: Work & Personal. I then summarize what went well and what didn’t under each heading. It’s nothing fancy or long winded, just a quick reflection on my day. I love getting my old posts in the reminder emails and being inspired by previous good days. It motivates me to write more and helps turn my good days into future ones. Paying it forward to myself, if you will.
Putting it all together
The above tools and techniques have really helped to shape my workday and keep me more present in my everyday existence. I don’t feel drained at the end of the day and it helps to ensure that I’m the best I can be for my family when I get home. Now, that’s not to say that I don’t have a bad day every now and again, but I’m better setup to have less of them. And if I do, it’s not really so bad. It’s still a day. And I still got to go through it.
What practices do you do that have helped make your workday more mindful?