Okay, people, it’s time to put on your yoga pants. And get your salt lamp.

All stocked up on that organic bulgur wheat? Just kidding.

But seriously, when I bring up the subject of mindfulness and project management, a lot of people raise their eyebrows. If you are one of these people, stick with me. Believe it or not, mindfulness can be extremely powerful.

Have I got your attention?

I’ve been teaching people about mindfulness in the workplace for a while now. Mindfulness is not as esoteric a concept as you might think. It simply means being fully present. That means you notice everything that is going on around you. You pay attention. You control your moment. This gives you an edge in any workplace situation. And it is a game-changer when it comes to managing teams.

What exactly is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is laser focus

Not the laser focus that you think you have while you are checking your email on your phone during a meeting and still brewing over how Joe stole your thunder at the last presentation. Laser focus means everybody turns off their devices at the meeting. It means you devote all your concentration to the task at hand. You know the purpose of the meeting, so during the meeting nothing matters except that purpose. If you think you are already good at this, I would challenge you on that. Try the raisin mindfulness test.

Mindfulness is the opposite of multi-tasking

In our culture, the ability to multi-task is considered a valuable skill. We zip from email to text message to the person stopping by our desk and then back to our computer screen, all in less than three minutes. The truth about multi-tasking is that it is shamefully inefficient and a productivity killer. When you practice mindfulness and truly focus on one thing, you experience flow, a psychological state where creativity explodes and you do your best work. Heck, it’s even been said that flow is where we find true happiness. Whether or not you reach nirvana, the quality of your work will definitely improve. And that will bring your team (and your client) happiness.

Mindfulness is awareness

This is probably the hardest part, but it is oh-so-important. When you are working on a team with different individuals, someone may have offended you. You may have offended someone. Somebody is annoying. Somebody is exasperatingly different from you. Somebody is bogged down with personal issues at the moment. Somebody stayed up too late. It’s your job to be aware of not only the emotional thermostat in the room (including little “hot spots”), but your own personal thermostat as well. Nip emotional escalations in the bud. Gently bring digressions back on track. Allow your focus to remain on problem-solving and decision-making and don’t get derailed by your own emotional responses or anyone else’s. The best leaders are able to keep their personal demons in check and speak calmly and rationally no matter what, and this attitude is contagious. If you aren’t losing your marbles when things go poorly, your team won’t either.

When it comes to mindfulness in project management, Yogi Berra summed it up pretty well: “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” Make sure you know where you are. Make sure you know where you are going. Then lead your team in that direction.

That’s mindfulness in a nutshell. Or an organic avocado shell. Whichever you prefer.

About the Author

Brandy Whisman is an administrative professional at The Solarity Group. She enjoys bringing clarity to chaos and helping people find a healthy balance in work, life, and relationships. Brandy received her B.A. from Berea College and her JD from the University of the District of Columbia.

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