6 Ways to Stay Present at Work

Several years ago, I had a high-pressure job at a prestigious university. I had a ton of responsibilities. My normal routine consisted of jumping out of bed, scurrying to work, attending endless meetings, getting home late, and falling asleep in front of the television. Most people thought I was 40. I was 25.

One day, after another meeting that quadrupled my to-do list, I walked to the front of the office to make copies. I doubled over the machine in pain as my chest tightened, and it suddenly became hard to breathe. My blood pressure had skyrocketed to a level I didn’t know possible. And it was all stress-related.

In that instant, I knew I had to do something different. I believed I was way too young to suffer the effects of stress the doctors warned me about. I refused to be put on any type of medication (“My grandma takes that!” I remember thinking). I committed right then to change from the inside out, starting with my mindset.

Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common. Many people run themselves to the limit until the doctor warns that they’re dangerously close to the point of no return, or they encounter some other personal wake-up call. But what if this “call” could be avoided altogether?

I’ve found that one of the most powerful changes to be made is to become more present in life. It sounds simplistic, I know. But taking the time to slow down and really enjoy each day, each encounter, and each experience makes for a life of true wealth, health, and happiness in every area of life.

I know from personal experience.

Here are a few practical ways to incorporate more presence into your workday: 

1. Define presence for yourself.

Being present generally means focusing on the current moment and allowing what is to just be. Take a moment to think about what that means to you at work. Does being “present” mean that you want your creativity to flow more freely? Does it mean immersing yourself into each task and improving your productivity? Having a stress-free day? Ask yourself: What does being “present” at work look like for you?

2. Take an honest assessment.

Is your business covering up an issue you don’t want to face? Perhaps you no longer enjoy your job or the routine of your life. If your job has become mundane and you now lack passion for it, then you could be sabotaging your ability to stay present—because your mind is constantly traveling to “Friday at 5 p.m.” If the thought of slowing down brings up fears associated with hidden workplace issues, it may be time to ask for help from your boss, HR, or even a coach or counselor.

3. Make yourself a priority.

Decide to schedule time for yourself by taking the first few minutes of each day to sit quietly, connect with your higher power, enjoy nature, read an inspirational book, or write in your journal. Giving yourself this time is like a “tithe” you invest in yourself each day. You are worth it!

4. Set your intention.

Decide what your day will be like. What mood will you be in? Will you choose to be anxious or calm? Because you took the time to define what “presence” means to you, you can consciously set the intention to experience what you envisioned every day.

5. Schedule regular breaks.

Set a timer on your phone to take an hourly stretch break and/or close your eyes and focus on your breathing for a minute or two. You may also want to complete your break by speaking a positive affirmation such as: “I appreciate all that I do. I am good enough just as I am. I speak up for myself. I ask for what I want. I claim my power.”

6. Practice gratitude.

Create a daily gratitude list or keep a gratitude journal on your desk. Before you start answering emails and returning calls, grab your coffee and jot down five things you are grateful for about your job. This simple exercise will have you radiating positive energy and connect you to all the goodness in the present moment.

Aspiring to become more present is the starting point of consistently acknowledging the unlimited power within you. It is this acknowledgement that will change your life because your focus shifts from outside circumstances—which are usually outside of your control—to what’s going on in your inner world. Consciously living from this perspective will give new meaning to your life and gradually help you make massive change.

I’m a personal witness that this works on a deep level. I went from barely surviving a stress-filled existence to finding the courage within to make necessary changes.  Today, my “work” is to help other professionals do the same thing. And it all started with the initial decision to “mind my business” and become more present.

Remember that incorporating these changes is a practice that will evolve over time. Be gentle with yourself, but know that your consistent efforts can make a huge difference not only at work, but in every area of your life.

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