Mindfulness in the Office: How Work Organization Can Reduce Stress

    It's Sunday night, and you're dreading your return to work.

    You're bundled up, drinking beer, binging the latest Stranger Things. But you're not enjoying the warmth, the beer, or how cool it is to watch Eleven flip a car with telekinesis. You're thinking about long meetings, tedious email conversations, and forcing a smile for your cubicle neighbor, Brad.

    It doesn't have to be this way.

    Mindfulness may be the cure to the Miserable Mondays. It's a mindset all about decluttering, whether that's cleaning up your inbox or cleaning up your mind.

    Read on for tips on organization and how to employ mindfulness in your work organization.

    Unsubscribing From Work Organization Stress: What Is Mindfulness?

    In recent years, you may have heard the term thrown around quite a lot, especially in conjunction with meditation, yoga, and other spiritual practices.

    Mindfulness is a lifestyle that focuses on living in the present moment. To some, that may sound silly. Aren't we always living in the present moment?

    Not always! On a regular basis, people find themselves focused on the past or the future. Regretting what they've done, or stressing out about what is to come.

    When you're living in the present moment, you're focused only on what you're doing right now.

    Most people will have constant, intrusive thoughts throughout the day about everything from the way they embarrassed themselves at the age of 5, to how they'll confront their landlord next weekend about the broken water heater. It's how your mind naturally works whenever it's not 100% engaged. Shower thoughts are an excellent example of how the mind can load you up with the most unexpected musings when it has nothing else to do.

    So the mindful solution is to "delete the email" of your non-stop thoughts. To experience the moment and nothing else. And as a result, your mind won't bother you about things that aren't relevant now.

    There's nothing you can do to change the past, and there's nothing you can do to change the future; you can only affect your actions in the present. That is the sort of mindset you can achieve with mindfulness.

    How Do You Use This in the Workplace?

    As you can imagine, this mindfulness mindset is meant to be applied to all aspects of your life, from personal to work. If you use mindfulness techniques while at home, but then put them aside at work, you're reducing the effectiveness of the practice.

    Let's cover some simple solutions to staying mindfully organized at work, without affecting your work productivity--in fact, mindful practice should help to improve your work productivity.

    #1 Be Aware When Performing Mundane Tasks

    How often do you find yourself doing boring, repetitive tasks that require little to no conscious thought? Whether it's loading packages into a truck, or cooking food, these are excellent moments for your unused mind to load you up with stress. Self-awareness is the primary tool of mindfulness practitioners.

    While you're performing these tasks, pay attention to the experience. Focus on all the senses. You can use the example of loading packages to see how this works.

    Feel the weight as you pick up the boxes. Hear your footsteps echoing as you move through the warehouse. Notice the smell of cardboard and wood pallets.

    As you turn your thoughts away from past and present stressors, your mind is clarified. The end result is more peace and less stress. You'll be far less concerned about when the day is going to end--instead, you'll enjoy freedom from anything that isn't happening here and now.

    #2 Establish a Daily Meditation Practice

    It's tempting during a long, hard day to use your 10-minute breaks to scroll mindlessly through social media. Social media is known to cause anxiety in regular users, so this obviously would contradict your mindful practice. The dopamine reward you experience by scrolling through endless media won't compare to the clean feel of meditation.

    What Is Meditation?

    While you may have heard of meditation, there's a good chance you haven't tried it out of fear that it was weird or difficult. The process is very simple, can be done by anyone, and improves with practice.

    The basic steps for performing meditation are as follows:

    1. Find a comfortable place where you can sit or lie down
    2. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing
    3. Make deep, slow inhales and exhales
    4. Pay attention to what your senses are capturing
    5. Analyze these sensations, and focus on them gently
    6. Draw your focus inward and scan your body from head to toe
    7. Notice sources of tension, or pain
    8. Examine anything you find without judgment

    If at any time you notice that you've gotten distracted by anything, gently bring your attention back and let those pesky thoughts go free.

    The object of meditation is NOT to stop yourself from thinking completely. Rather, to stop yourself from winding yourself up in unnecessary thought trains.

    A few side notes: You are welcome to stand if sitting is not an option. A quiet place is recommended, but not required. Closing your eyes is also recommended, but not required.

    Meditation can be performed for as long as you like, though ten minutes or longer is ideal. Notice how you feel after this session. Many report an elevated mood, a mind empty of worries, and peace.

    There's no such thing as too much meditation! If you can afford to meditate more than once per day, you may discover significant benefits in your mood and stress levels. Nothing feels better than clearing your mind with a brief 10-minute meditation session after a long, hard day at work.

    #3 Declutter Your Workspace

    Mental clutter can often be the result of physical clutter. Whether you've got a desk that's covered in papers or a computer that's a disorganized mess, these things can have a significant impact on your stress level.

    The full benefits of mindfulness will come a lot easier if your surroundings are likewise clear of "debris." For your workplace, you'll want to be as minimalistic as possible.

    If you have big, sprawling piles of papers, consider organizing them, or filing them in drawers/cabinets. It may be tempting to keep them around so you can keep track of what's currently on your plate. However, being organized at work will likely outweigh the downside of not having what you need immediately.

    Anything else--pens, family pictures, stress balls, containers of paperclips--should be reduced to the bare essentials. Old cups of coffee or lunch containers should be disposed of promptly. Likewise, you should keep your desktop clean and dusted.

    There are further steps you can take: minimizing the number of papers you post on the wall, managing your computer cables so they don't look like a tangled mess, and keeping the waste bin empty.

    Most important of all, maintain your workspace in this condition. Rather than having to spend half an hour every Monday cleaning up the detritus from the previous week, keep your station in order at all times. Spending an extra second to clean or organize pays off in the end!

    Declutter Your Computer

    Do you find that you often have dozens of tabs open? Are your files a mess? Is your desktop filled not only with app shortcuts, but random pictures and PDFs collected over the months?

    While your computer is not a physical environment, it's essential for someone seeking to be more mindful that they keep their digital life in order. Your solution to be digitally de-cluttered may differ from others, but here are a few general tips.

    Organize into folders. Don't do this later, do it now! Have a clear folder for documents, pictures, etc., and appropriate subfolders within that make it easy to find something in the future.

    Pin your most-used applications to the taskbar: Outlook, Slack, etc. In your Start Menu (Windows 10/11 users) keep apps that you use a bit less often. Take advantage of Windows' Start Menu folders to organize these apps even more succinctly.

    Try to keep tabs down to a minimum; save things that you use often to favorites, or use a more efficient tab management structure such as Windows Edge vertical tabs.

    Email Cleanup

    In some work environments, email come in rapid-fire. Nonstop emails are already a source of stress, so no need to make the clutter worse by keeping everything in the inbox!

    Some email programs make it easy to automatically organize your mail, such as Outlook's rules function. Others like Gmail use a simple sort-by-folder function. Installing some extra software may help you to clean up your inbox now.

    Wrapping It Up

    Mindfulness is the sort of thing you've heard of but been hesitant to try because of the negative connotations of hippies and star signs. However, mindfulness is a powerful state of mind that offers benefits to anyone who's interested in unsubscribing from the work organization stress in their life.

    Find more ways to perfect that work-life balance today. This is a practice that may take time to perfect. And if you need help decluttering that work email contributing to your work, there are simple tools perfect for you. Check out Mailstrom and Chuck today!

    Mailstrom Team

    Mailstrom Team

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