Mindfulness is a concept that’s increasing in popularity due in large part to the studies showing positive benefits of mindfulness meditation. When we at 7I talk about our 1st principle: work mindfully, we don’t mean to try to meditate while working all day. Rather, we’re talking about applying some of the principles of that style of meditation to objectively observing how you and those around you work together.
One of the best explanations of how mindfulness works comes from Headspace. They talk about thoughts being like cars on the freeway. Most of the time, the conscious “you” is in one of those thoughts, in the middle of the freeway.
Observing those “thoughts as cars” mindfully would be more like sitting off to the side of the road and watching the traffic as a non-participant.
That’s how we want you to think about and observe your work. Pay attention to it as an objective observer from time-to-time. Of course, to actually do the work, you often need to be right there, in the middle of traffic, but start taking a short portion of your day to step out onto the side of the road and observe like someone from the outside of your organization might.
Over the next week or two, take some time each day to observe your work in a more mindful way. Write down what you observe. Some things to pay particular attention to:
• Where does your work come from? If you’re like most people we talk to at work, it probably comes from a variety of places. Do people email you, call you, drop by and give you paperwork, holler across the office, assign you work in a work tracking system?
• What kinds of work do you do? Is nearly everything you do the same task done multiple times per day or do you juggle many different kinds of work each day? For example, if you process insurance claims all day, they might be broken up into homeowners vs auto. For the different kinds of work, what’s similar about them? What’s different?
• How does your work get prioritized and do you determine that it’s ready to be worked on? Is that entirely your decision or does it depend on other people and dependencies? Are the priorities aligned with other areas of the organization?
• Who do you need to talk to, consult, collaborate with while you do the work? How does that communication and collaboration happen? What channels of communication do you use? What artifacts, documents and other context do you share as part of these communications?
• When you’re done with it, where does it go? What determines that you’re “done” with it in the first place? Do you determine this alone, in concert with someone else or is it entirely up to someone else to check? What do you pass along to them for artifacts of the work? Have you ever discussed with them whether what you provide is ideal for that next step in the process?
• How do you keep interested parties up-to-date on progress or roadblocks related to your work?
• While you’re working on your tasks, are you aware of what others on your team or in your company are working on? Would you know if someone else is working on something related to your current task? Do you know when the people you need to collaborate are available and not available?
• Time of day and energy level. Are there certain tasks you are able to do better at specific times of the day? Tasks you should never do right after lunch? Tasks that, by waiting until the end of the day, you’ve inconvenienced the next person in the workflow?
Don’t spend large blocks of time on this. Just start making small observations. A quick note on a Post-It with just one of the questions from the long list I just gave you can remind you throughout the day to consider that single question and write down your observations about it.
Using that approach, I guarantee you will not take measurable time away from your work, and yet you’ll be building the understanding that serves as the foundation for the rest of how we recommend changing your work as a team to improve overall effectiveness.