Note: This is a guest post by Karl Staib of Work Happy Now!
Reaching a Zen-like state when working is not about being absolutely blissful. It’s a myth that monks walk around with fixed smiles on their faces.
Some probably do, but most are like you and me. They have their ups and downs while working.
But what they’ve learned to do is focus on the everyday routine and immerse themselves in every task they do.
No matter how they are feeling they are completely in the moment.
1. Stay aware of yourself and your surroundings
When Zen monks cook a meal they notice the smells of the rice and vegetables, the movements of their wrists as they chop the celery and their breath as they move from one task to another. They are aware of all these things because they understand that being lost in thought, whether it be about their friend or what they will read before they go to bed, doesn’t help them enjoy the work that they are doing.
They expand their awareness to soak up everything that they are experiencing. This happens naturally, especially when we are excited about a certain task. Think about something that you love to do. Maybe it’s hanging out with your kids, or a Saturday drive to your favorite store. Everything feels relaxed and wonderful because you’ve cultivated the Zen monk mindset. You don’t want any sensation to pass you by because it’s there to be enjoyed.
2. Work at a Comfortable Pace
You should take your time no matter what you are doing. When you are walking around your favorite store, you probably do it deliberately, making sure you don’t miss a thing.
You have the ability to cultivate this attitude at work. When typing an email you don’t have to type slowly, but you should feel comfortable with the rhythm so you don’t feel rushed.
If you are anything like me you probably don’t work well or happy when you feel hurried. You need to work at the speed with which you feel comfortable, so you can enjoy the process.
3. Take a Few Moments to Transition to a New Task
My father loves Cabella’s (the outdoor store) for hunting, fishing, hiking, and anything to do with fresh air. When he is walking from aisle to aisle he takes a moment to transition from hunting to hiking. He slows down to weigh his options then picks a section that catches his interest.
The brain needs time to adjust from an email to a report. Allow yourself a brief pause between tasks. It will lower your stress and help you work happier.
4. Do What is Necessary First
Zen monks understand that they must maximize their energy by tackling the most important work first. They don’t want to put it off because it only causes more worry. If they don’t get every single task done they are still satisfied because they know they used their time to work on the most important project, not procrastinating on little tasks.
You can learn to come into work and apply your efforts to what needs to be done, so the later part of the day is more relaxed as you do what is most enjoyable.
5. Develop Routines
Zen monks create routines to allow themselves to work more efficiently. They don’t start cleaning the bathroom and stop halfway through. They stay consistent by starting with the tub then moving on to the sink and finishing with the toilet.
You can create routines that help you work more efficiently. Maybe your thoughts are crisper in the morning, so you work on your reports first because it requires the most thinking. Then you move onto email then phone calls and so on. And the last thing you should do is create a list of things you need to do tomorrow so you are all set for the next work day.
6. Forget the Work Day and Enjoy Your Relaxation Time
A Zen monk never lets the work day affect his relaxation time. He releases all thoughts and worries about anything that he was involved in during his work. Through a little practice he encourages his mind to be an ally.
You can train yourself to enjoy the time away from work. So many of us think about projects and ideas when we are with our families and friends, but this is a terrible habit.
The mind needs a break from constant planning, so apply a relaxation technique on your commute home. It’s easy.
Allow yourself to stay with your breath as you head home and anytime a work thought pops into your head then bring your attention back to your breath. If you work at home, then take fifteen minutes before you leave your desk to lean back in your chair and breathe. By doing this over and over, you will strengthen your ability to relax before you spend time with your loved ones.
Karl Staib writes about unlocking and kicking open the door to working happy at his own blog: Work Happy Now! If you enjoyed this article, you may like to subscribe to his feed or read one of his most popular articles, Put People in a Design-Friendly Atmosphere to Inspire Excellent Work and How to Get Your Boss Naked.