Space for Pause

August 24, 2018

One of my favorite stories on the power of mindful pause was shared by a friend and coach, Jason. He read about an elite tennis coach working with top players, those who were winning Wimbledon and the US Open. The coach was focused on helping a group of players that were one level down, trying to determine how to help them to the top. He watched hours of videos of the champions and compared their games with those of his B team. He struggled to find any difference in their athletic abilities on the court and then it hit him. He began to watch what was going on with each player between sets. That was the difference. The top players were using those brief moments as they sat on the sideline chair with hundreds or thousands of people watching. They had discovered a way to be calm, to come back to their center no matter what had just happened in the last set, and to begin their next play at their best. This is the power of pause. Mindfulness is about being aware of self and of what we are doing moment to moment. It is the ability to create...

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Thinking is Billable

July 3, 2018

Pausing for reflection and thinking – to be better at your work – is not personal time. In a recent workshop with a client who bills most of their work by the hour, we were discussing how to weave short mindful practices into their various workflows. As I explained the value of resilience practices for creative problem-solving the CEO offered this, “Let’s add a few more minutes for personal time each day.” While I love time for personal reflection, this was an aha moment for me. Time to think improves the work we are producing. Mistakes happen when we are on auto-pilot and when we work long hours without breaks. In many open work environments taking time to think can look an awful lot like being unproductive. I’ve had team members come to me worried about another teammate who didn’t appear to be “working.” How have we come to a place where we believe doing requires constant action or reaction? We are a knowledge working society which is true also when you are running a machine. “Google” the value of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) in an AI world. Self-awareness and the ability to pause, think, and respond are critical skills for every employee....

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Why do we stop as soon as they get to work?

April 9, 2018

  From their first step onto the soccer field or up to the plate with a T-ball bat at age 5, most of the millennial generation grew up being coached. And from the time they left college and walked into your office chances are coaching is not part of their daily experience. They also struggle to describe the game plan – the connection between the work they are doing with the mission of their employer. According to Gallup, 60% of employees do not know their company’s mission.   When these young professionals left school and entered work, a coach was exchanged for their manger. A manager with a full plate of her own responsibilities. Someone with a checklist for onboarding, familiarity with people management software, and knowledge of the annual review process. Generally, not a manager or supervisor trained in the art of coaching and building teams. This is where a lot of companies are missing the mark. They are limiting leadership training to young and promising executive programs or emerging leaders – if they have leadership training at all. It is time to rethink that strategy. Why? Because our current managing tools and processes are not effective in a...

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Creating a Mindful Workplace

January 10, 2018

For the past three years, I have helped companies implement mindful work practices.  Our process and lessons may be helpful to your business. As of 2018, nearly 70% of Fortune 500 companies are offering some type of mindfulness programming. The businesses I have worked with include call centers, sales development teams, marketing and ad agencies, system programmers, industrial site workers, and caregivers. What is clear to me is that creating a mindful workplace is relatively simple and highly effective in connecting people with themselves, each other, and their companies.   At one company, a supervisor received thank you notes from her team for the first time, after just one week of starting her one-on-one meetings with mindful questions and unplugged time.  They thanked her for caring about them as human beings.  She had always cared and had never been given the tools to practice engaging leadership. Most business owners and managers tell me they are interested in creating positive work experiences, yet concerned about how much time it will take. Working mindfully does not take additional time. While there is a commitment to communicate and make changes, rather than adding time to your day, we repurpose time. Workshops and introductory sessions were...

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Device Addiction: Before and After

June 22, 2017

At a workshop on the importance of unplugged pauses during the workday, we talked about a recent 60 Minutes segment on smartphone addiction.   Anderson Cooper interviewed behavioral scientists who are working to ensure our smartphone applications are as addictive as possible. That’s how they make money.   One person in my workshop had this realization, “I’ve only had an iPad for about 3 years and have noticed a disturbing practice: I now first reach for the iPad and then turn on TV.”  Think about that. Many of us no longer watch a single program or video without having a device in our hands in case we are bored for even 15 seconds. We all nodded in agreement and shared our own examples, which got me thinking. What did my life look like before device addiction? Before: Go for a walk with the dog without checking texts, and watch the sun rise. Turn off my old fashioned alarm clock, daydream a bit and then get out of bed. Go for a hike and smell the woods, enjoy every flower, the sky, and trees. Ride in the car with the radio on letting my “mind wander a thousand miles away” with...

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November 14, 2016

It’s one thirty in the afternoon and I have been sitting in this chair for nearly six hours. There is a conference call droning on that I shouldn’t have accepted, a half-eaten energy bar by my keyboard, while I multi-task with emails, instant messages, and the occasional pop-in question.  Sound familiar? Have you ever felt like this on a Monday, or any other day? As I look around the office, I am not alone. People rarely take time for lunch anymore, let alone eat together, and the only people I see taking regular breaks are those who smoke.    That was two years ago. Before I gave myself permission to begin taking breaks on my own and with my team.  Permission seems to matter. The #1 reason that people don’t take breaks is they feel guilty; primarily due to the lack of their managers and leaders taking breaks.  When I started taking short breaks with our team, very few wanted to join me. I was fairly new to the organization, and even though I was a couple of levels up we needed to get everyone involved for them to feel it was acceptable. We began with a 5-minute standing stretch routine...

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We All Need At Least One Inspiring Friend

June 14, 2016

One thing I have learned in trying something new, is that having friends along for the ride makes it much easier and fun.   My inspiring friend has reminded me the importance of scheduling fun breaks in my calendar, even when my work week screams “No!”. Think about this: in just 3 decades we have added multiple ways to connect people, such as computers, voicemail, internet, email, text, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (to name a few); yet we have spent hardly any time on learning how to disconnect.  There’s a reason that we have those aha! moments in the shower. It’s one of the few places we can unplug. You’ve heard the term, doing more with less? This is the environment most people are working in. People are stressed. For you employers, in addition to absenteeism, employee turnover, and productivity costs, stress negatively impacts hypertension, acid reflux, and diabetes – all major drivers of your health care costs. Eighty percent, yes 8 out of 10 workers, are stressed in their jobs.  Pay level has been listed as the #1 reason for stress until 2013.  As of 2013, “work load” was referenced just as often, according to Huffington Post.  To continue...

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Is Your Workday Longer Than 2 Hours? You Need a Break.

May 13, 2016

I talk with people every day who believe that working longer hours allows them to get more done.  The truth is, adding hours to your work day is likely not producing better or more work.  In fact, evidence points to the contrary. Decades of research shows that we humans produce better work when we take time for short mental breaks during our work day.   After months of research to launch BreakTogether, this message stands out: Mindful work breaks are crucial to happiness and productivity.  Harvard conducted research in the the late 1920’s that revealed increased productivity after mid-morning and afternoon breaks, which ultimately led to scheduled breaks as part of the labor movement and the beginning of human resources protecting the rights of workers. Somehow that thinking has not followed us into the 21st century working in office and technology environments, yet it is just as important.  We need to bring back the work break. Think recess for adults. As much as people may agree that breaks are important, as Ron Friedman points out in the Harvard Business Review, it is really difficult to actually take them.  Changing our work day is possible.  Whenever I am trying to build a new healthy habit, it...

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4 Steps to Better Meetings

April 12, 2016

For many of us working in offices and tech environments, our days are spent running from meeting to meeting with virtually no time in between. Yet there is a growing body of evidence that meetings are not the best use of our time. Click here for an eye-opening CALCULATOR published by Harvard Business Review, to provide a cost estimate of meeting time. One national company used the calculator to determine the cost of a weekly check-in meeting with mid-level managers. They learned that the meeting was costing them $3 Mil a year and many people had provided feedback that it wasn’t productive. It had been going on for years. These steps below were initiated by the Chief Technology Officer at my previous company. They include suggestions for meeting organizers and participants.  I hope this helps to make even one meeting better for you and your company or to eliminate a meeting altogether! STEP 1: Shorter Meetings Unless there are strict rules within your company (hard to imagine), stop scheduling 1-hour meetings! You can set meetings for 45 minutes to give yourself time for reflection or time to walk from one meeting to the next. You can also set a meeting for...

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This will take less than 3 minutes to read – the perfect mini-break!

March 14, 2016

Turning points typically happen when you are faced with choices and you choose the direction of greatest change. I’d spent years at large employers, most recently as head of Benefits and Wellness at a national bank, and experienced first hand how valuable healthy breaks can be. I saw employees became engaged and energized with regular, scheduled breaks.  After a sabbatical over the summer, I made the decision to spread the concepts of workplace wellness across multiple industries and BreakTogether was born. Recently, I attended the Peak Work Performance Summit, an excellent two-week webinar interview series; and became more inspired. The summit featured discussions with over 25 thought leaders and authors who shared insights on happiness, mindfulness, and productivity in the workplace. Nearly every presenter touched upon the importance of taking mindful breaks in the workday to improve happiness, and productivity.   Isn’t that what most companies care about for their employees? Happiness equates to engagement and companies with higher engagement are generally 14% more financially successful than their peers, according to Fortune’s Best Place to Work survey. In my previous 10 years with two national employers, mindfulness programs were on the radar for employees, though it was challenging to roll...

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