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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Break Room

The 3-Minute Mindfulness Exercise That'll Make You a Better Leader

person being mindful
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You’ve heard of the benefits of mindfulness, and maybe even have a friend or two that swears by it. Its promises—less stress and a stronger feeling of well-being—are appealing.

But how are you really supposed to benefit from just sitting around and doing nothing? When you have a million and one to-do’s on your list, it’s hard to feel motivated to stop everything and get mindful.

Turns out, there’s a much easier way to incorporate it into your day. Plus, the benefits for a busy leader like yourself go well beyond just feeling good.

While you probably know that mindfulness is good for your health and wellness, you might not be aware that it also helps you perform better at work. It’s scientifically proven to improve your ability to focus by training your brain to minimize distractions and focus your attention on one task. And, it’s also shown to increase performance in the executive functioning of your brain—the part responsible for logical thought and impulse control.

As you excel in your career, these functions are crucial to your success. Not only will they help you get to the next rung on the ladder, but they’ll ensure you do well once you get there.

So, how can you practice mindfulness when you’re already overwhelmed with to-do’s? It turns out, you don’t have to plop down on a cushion for a half hour each day to start to see the benefits.

Try Mindfulness Interval Training

At its simplest, mindfulness is about noticing how you feel and what you’re thinking. So, the easiest way to incorporate it into your routine is to take breaks throughout your day to do just that:

Step 1: Identify 3 One-Minute Chunks of Time When You Can Practice Every Day

Set an alert to remind you to notice how you feel a few times a day. Pick times you can actually do it—if your mornings are consistently hurried, wait until you get into the office. Generally, I recommend taking these pauses in the morning, the afternoon, and the evening when you get home.

Step 2: Stick to the Schedule You Created

When your notification goes off, commit to sitting or standing still, close your eyes, and for five to 10 breaths, simply focus on your breathing. Your mind will wander—it’s in the habit of doing so, and habits are hard to break.

The point of this practice is to develop your capacity for focusing. As other thoughts creep in, know that every time you choose to let them go and pay attention to your breath, your focus is getting stronger.

Not so hard, right? Everyone can find three minutes a day to try this. And once you do that, you’ll hopefully see the benefits and want to try even more advanced mindfulness.

And no, don’t worry—I’m still not going to ask you to sit on a pillow for 30 minutes. Advancing can be as simple as sitting in your car for 10 minutes with the radio and your phone off before you leave for the day or when you get home from work (and this app is a great accountability partner to do just this).

And on those days when you’re struggling to find the time, remember that when it comes to leadership, we all want to follow the calm, cool, and collected person who makes consistent decisions.