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This is the final installment in a series exploring Dr. Kristen Lee’s (Northwestern University) nine lessons in personal and collective fortitude. Seen through the lens of a business operation, each lesson has application in the current national health and economic challenges, and for successful endeavors in the future.

We all thought we understood workplace stress. Then the pandemic came along and introduced us a whole new level of stress that we didn’t know existed. Now more than ever we have to build effective stress-management techniques. And it turns out it’s not as hard as you might imagine. One of the best strategies for stress reduction only requires two things. One: Stop multitasking. Two: Become mindful.

Stop multitasking. Everyone used to believe that the more multitasking you could do, the more productive you were. Multitasking gives us the feeling that we’re doing multiple tasks simultaneously. In fact, science has shown that our brains are giving only brief moments of attention to a single task in the multiple array of tasks, then refocusing on another single task in the array. It takes time for our brains to shift focus from one task to the next, then back again to the first task. These incremental losses of time add up. The result: We’re significantly less efficient even though we think we’re being super-productive.

Multitasking is not only unproductive, it’s incredibly stressful. The less efficient you are, the further you fall behind and the more stress you experience.

Start meditating. In the past decade, the practice of mindfulness, or meditation, has become mainstream. Management seminars and team-building retreats include mindfulness instruction. Major tech companies include meditation rooms in their offices. Businesses find that when managers practice mindfulness, they think more creatively, make better decisions, and accomplish more.

Mindfulness allows the brain to do what it does best: Focus. Whatever happened at the last meeting, whatever might happen in your next meeting, all becomes irrelevant. Only the current meeting is important, and nothing else. Right here, right now is what counts. The decisions and insights that come from a focused mind allow you to move forward confidently into tomorrow.

Taking time to engage in a meditative technique like deep breathing, for example, can spark a new idea or de-fuse a negative encounter. Wellness expert Dr. Troy Adams recommends these activities for workplace mindfulness:

  • Pay attention to your surroundings – indoors/outdoors, warm/cold, quiet/noisy.
  • Be present – experience each moment and look for the good within that moment.
  • Accept yourself and treat yourself like you would a good friend.
  • Focus on your breathing; even a minute of deep breathing is helpful.

People are the greatest resource of any business. Stress reduction through mindfulness will keep your people healthy and productive, and keep your organization at peak performance. Consider some of the ways you can encourage mindfulness in the workplace – Zoom meditation sessions? Quiet areas set aside in the office? Mindfulness retreats? If you meditate on how to support mindfulness, you’ll find the right solution.

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