Does the workday pass by in a blur of distraction and lack of productivity? Try practicing mindfulness. Here’s how to start.

Ever had a work day like this?

You go to work, throw yourself into whatever project you’re working on, and don’t notice what’s going on around you. You forget you have coworkers and get distracted by emails and the latest celebrity gossip.

By the time you realize it’s the end of the day, you’ve avoided what you’re supposed to be doing and haven’t accomplished what you need to. You go home feeling disconnected, frustrated, tense, stressed, annoyed or any other combination of negative emotions.

You can get out of this awful cycle by practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness means you experience life in the present rather than reliving the past or worrying about what might happen in the future. It allows you to focus more on work, so you get more done at the office — which means leaving work at your job instead of bringing it home.

Here are three ways you can practice mindfulness at work:

1. Create a ritual to start your work day

It’s great to have a ritual to start your day so you don’t just sit down at your desk, dive into work and lose awareness of what’s going on around you. When you get to work, take a minute to look around your work environment. Is it organized? Is it comfortable?

It’s easier to get lost in your work and avoid your surroundings if they’re disorganized and uncomfortable. Straighten up so your workspace is somewhere that you want to be. Make yourself a cup of tea or get your bottle of water out so you don’t dehydrate. Breathe deep and get comfortable.

2.  Take regular breaks

A break can last a few minutes, but make sure to turn off your “work brain” when you’re taking it. (Click here to tweet this thought.) This will prevent you from going through your work day on autopilot and forgetting to look away from your computer for a bit.

You can use your break to connect with your coworkers by focusing on them, rather than drifting off into thoughts of what you “should be” doing. Take some time to enjoy lunch away from your computer and phone to avoid reading email. Or stay at your desk and enjoy a few short minutes of meditation or deep breathing. You’ll find you’re more focused after these breaks.

3.  Check in with your body

Pay attention to the sensations of your body — is your back tensing up? Are your hands cramping? Do you feel pressure in your chest? All of these physical signs let you know what’s going on. They signal that it’s time to slow down and eat lunch or drink some water.

Maybe you’ve been sitting too long and need to stand up and stretch. Or you need to look away from the computer screen for a few minutes to give your eyes a break and avoid a headache. Or if you’re continually feeling tense and have a hard time relaxing, it may be time to use that vacation time you’ve been saving up.

Which one of these mindfulness practices will you try out first?

Nicole Liloia, LCSW is a stress+less coach and therapist who helps smart-yet-stressed women center themselves and develop self-care plans that stick so that they can stop feeling overwhelmed and start enjoying their lives. Find her strategies to stress less and live more at


  1. Susan Burns

    These are all great ideas, Nicole. As a person with a chronic illness that reduces my executive function, I know that I need to build in structure in my days so that I get stuff done. I also do my work from home, which adds a whole other level to the chaos of my days. One thing that has been helpful to me in adding structure to my days is using my smart phone to send myself reminders and plan in times to do certain activities. Mindfulness is so important to me, in all areas of my life. It keeps me living in the present, instead of off in my head somewhere, fantasizing or worrying about future events. Thanks for the great article.

  2. Jane Manthorpe

    Nicole, this post is a great reminder to connect and live with the present moment, at work and at play.

    Your first point mentioned on starting your day right by having a morning routine is great. For an idea, I always start my day with 5 yoga poses called the Five Rites and I do these whilst deep breathing.This connects my mind with my body and makes me feel relaxed and centred before I head out of for the day. Its also good for body toning and making you feel great with your body because if you do this regularly you start to see your body take on a healthy toned shape. This boosts your confidence and self-esteem.

    I love point 3 too, concentrating on your body posture, and how you are feeling in your body. I must say though that having a good posture alignment when sitting is so important for keeping the back aches at bay and keeping your alert and awake, and also feeling in a uplifted happy mood. Slumping makes you feel inadequate and low, and possibly unproductive.

    Great post and a great reminder to live in the present moment.

  3. Laurie McLean

    So true, Nicole, about starting with a routine to set your day up for success. I need to sort my desk first into zones which brings focus to my day. I’ll also set time limits on a task/project rewarded with small breaks which keeps me mindful and productive. I think this approach applies to those in traditional work or, in my case, solopreneur. Much less stressful having a system or routine. Thanks !

  4. Wendy Hawkins

    So true and very helpful! As part of my ritual, I try to decide what the most important things are for me to get done that day, first thing when I get there. Then, no matter what comes up or interruptions happen or whatever, I still come back around to that one thing and get that done.

    Sometimes it’s many things of course, but I still try to decide whatever those may be first, that way my day can work around those, and I don’t’ feel so stressed when I leave work because the most important things are done.

    Thank you for the great reminders!

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