This is my busiest time of year at work. My colleagues and I have a large deadline—our largest!—next week, and everyone is working extra hours and pitching in. I’m always humbled by the generosity of my coworkers; they are a great bunch. I am lucky to work with them.
No matter how hard everyone works, though, big deadlines and intense workloads are stressful. And, no matter how much you enjoy what you are doing, when the days are jam-packed and whiz by too quickly (how is it 4 PM already?), everything can start to be overwhelming.
In an effort to help manage some of that oh-my-I-have-too-much-to-do feeling, we brought in a wellness expert for a mindfulness session today. I felt a little bad scheduling the session amid chaos, but when would we find a better time to work on stress management than in the middle of stress? Plus, we brought in lunch, too, and free food can cure a lot of ills.
During the session, we did an exercise to consider the pros and cons of multitasking (The verdict? It’s not good for you), participated in guided meditation (I wish someone would come to the office every day to lead a guided meditation!), and worked on our ability to focus. And, that’s what I want to tell you about.
One of the exercises my coworkers and I did to strengthen our focus involved a feather. We each were given a delicate white feather that was about two feet long. The tips of mine were tinged purple and blue, giving it the impression of the plumage of proud peacock. Our assignment was to balance our feathers on our palms, keeping them standing straight. We were not to lean against the wall, cup our hands around the ends, or blow on the feathers to keep them aloft. We had a practice run, during which time most of us laughed at the odd task before us. Then we got serious and started balancing.
One by one, our feathers fell, and we sat back down at the table to watch the others at work. I wasn’t the first person in my seat, but I did go down earlier enough to be able to watch my coworkers who lasted longer than I did try to prevent their feathers from falling. Some of them danced back and forth around our conference room, allowing their bodies to sway with the feather’s awkward attempt to stand at attention. Others glanced around the room, checking out the competition. Distracted, their feathers fell. The two left at the end took a different approach: they stood still, moving only slightly, with their eyes firmly locked onto their feathers. Their gazes didn’t waver, and neither did their commitment to keeping those feathers upright. By being quiet and centered, they succeeded where the rest of us—those of us who trying to do too much at once, for example—failed. It was a great reminder of the need to slow down and give something—one thing—your all. It doesn’t matter if it’s a busy season at work or in life; the reminder from today’s mindfulness session was an important one.
So was I relaxed and stress-free after the session? Well, for about ten minutes, I was! Then, I remembered my to do list.