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Mindful At Work Challenge, Day 2: Eliminating Distractions

This post is part of an ongoing partnership between the Institute for Mindful Leadership and Huff Post as we work together to bring mindfulness to the workplace. The Institute has just opened enrollment for a number of retreats in NY and MN. More info can be found at We hope you'll join us in 2014!

By Janice Marturano.

Welcome back! We hope you enjoyed yesterday's practices as we began this experiment in learning to lead from a place of greater presence.

Today, we invite you to consider the habit of jumping from one activity to another, often without feeling the satisfaction of completing anything with the depth and quality we know we are capable of. Although we may intend to put our full focus on completing that presentation or report, we suddenly find ourselves skimming through emails, reacting to every ‘ping’ from our phone, scrolling through our news feed or browsing through online stores. We know intuitively that this distractibility drains our productivity and often makes us feel rushed and disconnected. But what we may not realize is that indulging this habit often means that we fail to notice the lovely sunset on the way home, or the look on our daughter's face telling us that she has something to share with us if only we'd put down the smartphone and become truly available for a few minutes.

The simple practice we began yesterday of bringing awareness to the breath and sounds, and gently redirecting our attention back each time we find it has wandered, is a foundational training in strengthening the mind's ability to focus. We are beginning to learn that our mind's propensity to be distracted is not "just the way it is." We can develop the mind's innate capacity to sustain our attention on whatever is most important right now, and when we do, we begin to gain a little bit of freedom from these habits of partial attention and automatic reactivity.

Yesterday we offered the suggestion of taking a purposeful pause at some point in your day -- perhaps using the opportunity of brushing our teeth to bring your awareness to the breath and the sensations in your body. You may not have remembered this mindful intention this morning when you were brushing your teeth, and that's okay. We don't need to beat ourselves up -- we can simply begin again to set this intention for next time.

Here is your mindfulness training for today:

  1. We will be practicing again with the guided meditation introduced yesterday. Find a relatively quiet place to sit comfortably and listen, and as best you can, follow along with the instructions given in the recording.

  • On your commute to and from work today, explore what "just driving," "just riding the train," or "just walking" feels like to you. This means traveling without playing the radio, making calls, texting, or reading the newspaper -- instead, you're simply going about your commute without any distractions or multitasking. See if you can bring a sense of playfulness and curiosity to the simple experience of transitioning from home to work, and work to home.
  • Continue with the purposeful pause you chose yesterday (for example, brushing your teeth). Experiment with adding another common daily activity -- perhaps preparing and drinking your next cup of coffee or tea, or becoming aware of your breath sensations for a minute or two at the beginning of your next meeting. Any little moment of your day can become an opportunity to practice mindfulness. What purposeful pauses are you finding? Try journaling about your experience or sharing with the community on Twitter or in the comments.
  • Have fun! We'll see you tomorrow.


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