Stressed. I think most business owners can agree that this is the perfect word to describe how many of us feel on a daily basis. I’ve spent the last 25 years growing and managing a document management business, overseeing 30 employees, while raising a family. Each day my mind played a tug of war between my professional and personal life.
Trying to concentrate enough to focus on tasks was a challenge. I would often work straight through my day without allowing my brain the proper rest it needed to recharge. I wasn’t being the best operator and manager I could be. I felt burned out and knew something needed to change – that’s when a friend introduced me to mindfulness.
I am not talking about a 30 minute meditation in the middle of the workday, but I do practice a few small exercises which have made a big difference in my ability to concentrate and focus on my responsibilities and staff.
3 Step Breathing Exercise
If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin, this exercise will help you relax and prioritize. It can be as quick as a few minutes and done at your desk.
Breath: Sit with your feet flat on the floor, hands on your lap or at your sides, and take three long, deep breaths taking your time to fully inhale and exhale. You can close your eyes during this exercise if you so wish.
Body: Now start by paying close attention to your body: Is there any tension anywhere? Where can you feel your breathing most clearly? (Nose, chest, stomach?) Focus your attention on that spot for a minute and just breathe allowing yourself to relax. Don’t think about anything else.
What’s important now? Now, still regulating your breath, bring your attention to the tasks at hand and focus on what the most important is. Choose one task and concentrate on it, breathing and allowing yourself to visualize its completion with success.
When you feel relaxed enough bring yourself back to the present and complete the task.
Habit Anchor Exercise
Sometimes our days become so busy that we often struggle to find the time to do a mindfulness exercise or we simply forget.
Find a habit that you already do daily and let that become the anchor of your mindfulness exercise. Whether it’s 2 minutes while your coffee brews, a 10 minute walk to a cafe on your lunch break, or refilling the computer printer paper, focus on the task at hand and clear your mind. Take a few deep breaths and focus on the present. If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, as you breathe, repeat this: “I do my best, and let go of the rest”.
This small disconnection will help reduce stress and refresh your mind.
For those of you who still aren’t big believers in mindfulness exercises, the Pomodoro Technique helps with time management and staying focused. The idea is to break your work down into intervals, and in between each interval, take a short break to stretch or get away from your desk. Ideally the Pomodoro Technique suggests 25 minute work intervals, and breaking for 5 minutes but I prefer 1 hour intervals and slightly longer breaks.
As business owners we have so many responsibilities that can cause us to feel overwhelmed and prevent us from the most efficient, productive version of ourselves. The ability to fully disconnect isn’t easy for everyone and can be challenging at first, however, the more you practice, the easier it becomes. By applying some of these methods, you allow yourself to disconnect, relax, and bring your focus back to what’s important.