The past year has taught us many things. From resourcefulness to patience, from gratitude for health to a deeper appreciation for essential workers – the lessons we have and will continue to learn all amount to mindfulness.

Much more than a mere buzz word, mindfulness is the very heart of awareness; it is the practice of being in the moment. Yes, it’s difficult to be in the moment during a pandemic when uncertainty, anxiety and frustration are daily and hourly emotions. That said, there is no better time than now to cultivate and nurture self-awareness.

Unlike the skill to focus, which is the ability to concentrate on what you’re doing in the moment, awareness is the facility to recognize and release unnecessary distractions as they arise. Mindfulness, therefore, requires development of a sharp, clear mind, allowing you to focus on the task at hand while recognizing that both internal and external distractions may arise. 

Whether you’re working remotely from home or in an office, apply focus and awareness from the moment you begin the work day. It may seem counterintuitive but focusing attention on the task directly in front of you can reap much better results than multi-tasking. Racing between one project to the next can be – and often is – a proverbial “three steps forward, two steps back” recipe for inefficiency. Not to mention the exhaustion it creates on the body and mind.

During breaks in the day, direct that focus on things other than work. If you’re having lunch, taking a pause for coffee or making a personal phone call, try not to let thoughts about the afternoon’s work projects get in the way. 

And when the work day ends, apply mindfulness as you decompress. For those who are commuting, turn off your phone, keep the radio volume down and just breathe. Ditto for remote workers. Step away from your work station, find a quiet spot in the house and just let yourself be for a few minutes.  

There will always be distractions – some more important than others – but by practicing mindfulness, you’ll be on a better track at work, for your family and as an individual.