Follow these 7 guidelines by Dr Stephen McKenzie to work mindfully so that your attention stays on only what matters. Using these rules for Mindfulness at work, you'll be able to get more done with less stress because your focus will zero in on what's important, without letting distractions or worries drain your energy.


  • Begin all work in stillness

Have you ever noticed that when things go wrong at work it’s often because they started off wrong? Maybe we were in such a hurry to get things done that we forgot to listen to our instructions. Maybe we were in such a hurry to get an amazingly good result in the future that we forgot to attend to what we were doing right now.

There’s a saying: ’More haste, less speed’, and this means that we can accomplish things at work more efficiently and more quickly when we are really focused on what we are working on. The key to our job success isn’t what we do in our job but what we do in our preparation for it. Stillness is a vital part of mindfulness and it’s a portal to inner calm and focus as well as to outer success.

  • Separate the components of our work with pauses

Reconnecting with our natural stillness during our work is as important as starting our work in stillness. Most of us informally practise mindfully pausing and reconnecting with the stillness that underlies all activity, whether we notice it or not. This informal practice can involve stopping work to have a cup of tea, or possibly something much less good for us.

These pauses between activities are natural and necessary and are the working equivalent of punctuation in written prose, and without pauses our activities will blur into each other!

  • Work until our work is finished

This principle might seem obvious but just because something is obvious doesn’t mean it isn’t true. We can easily forget to finish what we’ve started if we are tired or distracted, and if we forget to work until we are finished it’s hard to stay mindful. It’s easy to be seduced by our greatest tempter — our minds — into thinking that we can finish our task another time, and it can be easy for us to accumulate drawers full of ‘another times’. There’s a principle known as ‘the last inch’ (or ‘the last centimetre’ in many countries!).

This principle refers to how the last part of our job can be the hardest, but this is often its most important part, our real working rite of passage. The sporting equivalent to the last inch is the last or championship lap, which is often the most challenging and the most vital.

  • Meet our working need

It’s very easy with any job we do to just do what we think needs to be done, or what we would like to do, or what we think somebody else would like us to do. It’s important, however, for us to stay focused and awake and connected with others enough to do what needs to be done.

The key to doing what needs to be done is to really listen to the people with whom and for whom we are working. This means being open to the possibility that what they really need isn’t what we think they need.

  • Allow our instrument to do the work

This doesn’t just mean allowing our tools to do their job without straining to achieve a result through them, it also means allowing the people with whom or for whom we are working to do their job. It’s easy for us to lose so much consciousness that we see others merely as vehicles for our speeding egos.

Recognising and letting go of this thought pattern can be liberating — for us and others. To do this we need to trust that the working truth is enough, and that we don’t need to help it along by trying so hard that we strain our working relationships. Allowing the natural results of our efforts to blossom without forcing results or snatching at them can be a powerful exercise in workplace awareness and acceptance.

Optimally expressing our nature through our work often means allowing others to optimally express their nature through their work.

  • Focus on where our work is taking place

This principle is the working equivalent of keeping our eyes on the ball when we play sport, so that we don’t drop what’s important to us. If we can focus our attention on the point where our bodies and minds make contact with what we are working on, then we will truly connect with what we are doing and work harmoniously.

Working optimally requires our full-focused attention to be on our task and working optimally also develops our full-focused attention. You might like to try an experiment. Do some work that you would probably normally avoid, such as washing some particularly dirty dishes or dogs, or serving something to somebody that you would rather throw at them.

Now try doing this same task with your attention fully engaged — really feel the dish or the dog, or really hear the sound of your disagreeable customer’s voice. Is it boring or objectionable or second rate? Is anything boring or objectionable or second rate if we give it our full attention? Try doing a working life experiment and find out!

  • Let our work flow

If we are digging a ditch or performing intricate open-heart surgery it can seem like we are doing what we are doing. It can also seem like the result of doing what we are doing is vitally important or that we really need to please someone or avoid failing, for another day at least. This idea of feeling caught up in what we are working on, and attachment to its results, actually makes our work harder than it needs to be, resulting in suffering.

We are essentially the observer of a mind and a body that does the work, and this deep working reality doesn’t just apply to the perhaps apocryphal three out of four council workers who lean on their spades observing the fourth worker work! This deep working reality doesn’t even just apply to the perhaps apocryphal highly paid CEOs of major companies whose profits improve while they are on leave.

This deep working reality means that our habitual preoccupation with the rewards of our work causes us to lose our working focus, which leads to inefficiency and disorder. Let our work flow and things will progress easier and smoother, without you sabotaging your own productivity.

=>For more mindfulness tips, listen to this free interview with Dr Stephen McKenzie on the essentials of mindfulness; you can sign up (free) and get access here: The Essentials of Mindfulness