How working mindfully boosts productivity


Salt columnist Andy Hix lists five ways in which adopting a more mindful approach to work can improve your productivity.

Take a moment now to notice your surroundings. Notice what you can see, hear, smell and touch. Can you taste anything? What does the surface underneath you feel like? What sensations can you feel in your body? How does your posture feel? Notice what you’re experiencing in your body.

What thoughts are you having? Notice if you’re judging what you’re experiencing in any way and see if you can let go of that. Are you aware of any emotion? Consciously choose what you want to do next. Hopefully, it’s to carry on reading!

1. Prioritising

So how is this useful at work? Well, actively choosing where to place your attention in each moment and being intentional with your actions is relevant from the first moment of the working day.  It’s so easy to go straight into answering emails and to be dragged hither and thither by requests and notifications and to forget or postpone the most important things you need to do.

2. One thing at a time

In the modern workplace it can be extremely difficult to do one thing for any length of time without being interrupted by a colleague, an email, a notification on your phone or an urge to check Facebook. We end up having fifteen tabs open, being part way through at least five different tasks, starting things, getting sidetracked and forgetting what we were originally trying to do. This is inherently inefficient and stressful.

Working mindfully means to choose one thing to work on at a time.  I use a technique called Pomorodo, in which I set my self a single task for twenty five minutes, take a five minute break and then repeat. It makes me far more focused and productive.

3. Tackling the scary tasks

We’ve all got things on our ‘to-do’ list that we’ve secretly categorised ‘to avoid’. Mindfulness is about tuning into and investigating all of your emotions, including the difficult ones. By being aware that we have fear or anxiety attached to certain tasks, we can consciously choose to allow that emotion to be there and to do the task anyway.  In my experience, it’s usually far more uncomfortable in my mind than in reality.

4. Avoiding back pain

It’s hard to focus when you’ve got a bad back and a very high proportion of office workers suffer from it. It’s one of the most common reasons for people taking time off work. If you’re mindful of your body you will notice much faster if you’re not sitting in a position that’s good for your back and you can correct it before it becomes a serious problem. How are you sitting right now?

5. Reducing Stress

Stress reduces productivity, creativity and leads to poor decision-making, not to mention making you unpleasant to be around. Being aware of your mind and body helps you to notice when you’re feeling stressed and do what you need to do to calm down: go for walk, do a short meditation or just take some time to gather your thoughts and put things in perspective.

So after you finish reading this, notice what’s happening in your mind and your body. Take a moment to consciously decide what you’re going to do and then do it without getting sidetracked. Why not take on one of the ones you keep avoiding? You’ll feel great when it’s done.

Andy Hix is director of zen at work, a London-based mindfulness consultancy. Get in touch with Andy for a free taster session at


Photo credit: Geraint Rowland from Flickr