Learning how to manage your time well is critical for being present at work and getting the benefits that come with mindfulness. Simply put, if you're not organized with your time, it is easier to get distracted because you're not clear on what you should be doing in that moment.
So if you're set on expanding your mindfulness practice, you need to be serious about continually improving your time management skills. And for most of us, there's quite a bit of room for improvement. A 2014 Salary.com survey of more than 750 employees found that 89 percent said they wasted at least some time at work each day.
Everyone needs a breather now and then, of course. I am not suggesting every minute of the day be scheduled with an action you need to take or something else to accomplish. But instead of wasting the time, which by definition is mindless, why not work with your natural energy level and be more purposeful about your breaks? Not only is this a route towards increased productivity, but you will probably feel a lot better about how you spend your days if you generally accomplish what you set out to do.
So here are some tips for improving your time management to help make you more present and focused at work:
1. Take inventory of your time and identify where you waste it.
You can't improve something unless you know exactly what you're working with. You might want to journal this over the course of a few weeks so you can pick up on patterns. You can break up the day by hours and keep notes of what you did, how productive you felt you were, and how high or low your energy level was. If you have a pretty defined daily routine, you can reflect on it, write it down and then maybe tweak it as you observe yourself more closely over the next few days.
Doing an exercise like this will help you prioritize what work you should do and when you should do it. For example, if your brain still tends to be sluggish around mid-morning, maybe you use that time to clean up emails rather than focus on stuff you need real brain power for. If your job involves a lot of computer time -- and what office job doesn't these days? -- it's also a good idea to use a tool like RescueTime.com to track how much time you spend on certain websites, email etc.
When I realized my energy took a bit of a dip every two hours or so, I actually changed my eating habits so that I was having little snacks throughout the day so that I wasn't totally depleted and rushing for the coffee every afternoon.
2. Divide your day in two halves.
Once you've determined how your energy tends to flow, divide the day up. If your energy tends to be highest in the morning, reserve that time for larger tasks that require more mental effort. Don't schedule meetings until after lunch -- you might even want to block off time in your calendar so coworkers know this is your focus time.
3. Enforce a five minute rule.
When you ping-pong between meetings, give yourself a break before going straight from one meeting to the next. I take at least five minutes between meetings to just re- center my mind, calm my body and redirect my attention to the moment. That way I can be fully present and engaged for the next encounter rather than my mind lingering in the past.
There are lots of other great time management tips and ideas out there, so as you get a better sense of your natural rhythms, experiment and try different ones until you figure out what works to help make you present and focused exactly when you want to be.