When thinking of Zen, instead of asking yourself what it is, ask yourself when it is.
Zen is simply now — the practice of complete awareness of the present.
While Zen has immensely beneficial applications in a multitude of personal situations, it can be extremely helpful in the work environment.
We all have the potential to experience Zen at the workplace, and the wonderful benefits it promises.
It’s just a matter of recognizing what Zen is and applying a few of its principles.
Have you ever been so involved in what you are doing at work that you fall into a hyper-focused state, and before you know it, you look up from your work to see the time has zoomed by?
Some people call it “being in the zone.” Others call it flow. Either way, it’s when we are completely engaged in what we’re doing — staying Zen while working.
Here are five ways to apply the principles of Zen at work:
1. Organize Your Desk and Work Area
Clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions.”
— Barbara Hemphill
Although some people claim to work better in a cluttered area, most find it distracting, since they have to continually push things aside to find what they need. If you are finding that there is no room on your desk, take a few minutes to clean your work area before sitting.
Spending just a few moments getting organized can help eliminate mental stress, since a messy work area definitely contributes to it.
2. Learn to Take Control of Demands
Life is not what it’s supposed to be. It’s what it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.”
— Virginia Satir
When the demands of our work make us feel pressured, our brain begins to think that we are unable to cope with them. Feeling stressed and overwhelmed is simply not having control over our everyday demands.
Your brain gives off a fight-or-flight response when you start feeling as if you cannot cope. The more you stress, the more your brain misinterprets the feeling and tries to fight it.
The good news is we can change this by first figuring out the signal thoughts that put us into “can’t cope” mode. These signal thoughts may include things like:
- Feeling as though we have to do everything immediately
- Having too much on our plate
- Believing we aren’t able to get everything done
To change your brain into believing you can cope, you have to change your mental attitude. For instance, instead of panicking over the 35 phone calls you have return, tell yourself this:
I will return these calls. There is no need to activate my body’s emergency system.
To do this, you have to ask yourself a couple things: First, does it really have to be done this second? Secondly, what will happen if you put it off?
3. Don’t Let Distractions Take Over
By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.”
— Christopher Columbus
Staying Zen while working will not just happen all on its own. You have to focus mentally to get into this state, and eliminate all distractions that will keep you from finishing the job.
Since we all know that busy work can allow distractions to overtake these more mundane tasks, schedule a specific time for doing these types of activities. Keep your distraction plate clear while at work and save the busy tasks for another time.
Better yet, schedule your Zen time instead and stick to it.
4. Slow Down
Progress, of the best kind, is comparatively slow. Great results cannot be achieved at once, and we must be satisfied to advance in life as we walk, step by step.”
— Samuel Smiles
By slowing down and doing less, you can get more done. In fact, according to Dr. Stephen McKenzie, cognitive psychologist, most of us waste our workday by answering emails, sending status updates or tweets, and even eating our lunch mindlessly while in front of a screen.
He goes on to say that in order to be mindful you have to focus on one thing at a time instead of trying to multitask.
5. Question Why You Do Things
Before you start some work, always ask yourself three questions Why am I doing it? What the results might be? and Will I be successful? Only when you think deeply and find satisfactory answers to these questions, go ahead.”
When you’re stressed at work, it’s more difficult to focus. It can lead to reacting to situations, instead of thinking them through and logically coming to a decision.
Instead, how about challenging your beliefs so you can understand other viewpoints? For instance, why not start your day off being rational instead of letting your emotions dictate your actions?
Aside from the great feeling you will get by being Zen, your overall work day will be more pleasant as well. You’ll notice that you’ll start to get tasks done and more frequently, rather than losing focus.
Being Zen can be completely rewarding and satisfying. It’s important you realize this, appreciate it and practice it daily.