Hands up who has never filled out the wrong column on a form or who has never copied mindlessly what the previous participant had filled out on a presence list!
Not paying attention can turn to mishap in a jiffy, not only at work, everywhere and with serious consequences! This study in 2014 found among others that people who experienced anxiety or nervousness the previous day had a 2 times higher risk of being involved in a traffic accident. When we’re stressed our vision range gets narrower and narrower, just like the biker that hits a tree because he’s too stressed to look elsewhere when he gets off the road. And it gets worse if you’re an introvert. Simple solutions aren’t that simple anymore. At work, even if we’re doing the very task that could put us out of trouble, if we’re stressed we might be blowing our chances away because the only thing we see in front of our eyes is the problem we have or we might have if we don’t manage things right.
If this a is happening to you, know that you’re not alone!
Here are a few of my mindless jiffies that happened because I was thinking/stressing about problems at work:
– Minor car crash – the silliest one of all – bumping into the car in front of me, that had just stopped to let walkers cross the street. It wasn’t much but it was enough to shake me up a bit and make me realise what a wrong attitude I had towards work. And it scared the peace out of my children who were in the back seat. That’s some trust I lost in a jiffy…
– Crossed the street without looking – luckily the car coming had good breaks and a more awake driver than I was!!
– Pressed the pay button in my home bank before putting the due date and had a good deal of money leave my account before time!!! The interest I paid for that did hurt a bit…
– And the classic, the one I started this post with, the countless mistakes on forms… I used to be a true disaster here.
How to stop doing them? We need to work on your ability to be present in the present as much as possible and at least when we’re doing important detail work. I include below a few suggestions on how to do that.
1 – Grow up! Own up to your job, to your mistakes and to your status. You are a professional and you should definitely behave like one. Get serious, shake yourself up a notch and focus on the things you do when you need to. Easier said than done, right? Yes, but it did the job for me. Coach yourself, push yourself, tell yourself come on, let’s do this, it’s serious. Remember, be encouraging; there is no point in beating yourself up and lowering your self appreciation in the process.
2 – Think about the others! Yes, by not being present in the moment you are actually being selfish as the mistakes you can do may be costly for others and not only financially. If that car had run me over because I didn’t pay attention when crossing the road then maybe my children would have grown without a mother…
3 – Mindfulness. This should probably be number 1 but I like the growing up idea more, plus I’m still working on my mindfulness exercises so I don’t fully trust it as a single solution yet.
Many authors say it’s good to practice mindfulness every day for at least 10 minutes. If you don’t afford 10 minutes of alone time you can do this when you’re showering and top it up with shorter sessions when you brush your teeth for example. I also find it easy to focus when doing a puzzle or another exercise of the sort. Find a puzzle of 1000 pieces and work on it for 10 minutes every day in full focus (provided that you can stop after those 10 minutes…). Any length it’s better than nothing at all.
One idea on mindfulness. I found that it works better when I adapted it to my sensory learning style. These are: visual (images), auditory (sounds) or kinesthetic (touch). While I do well with all three and it’s even better to use all three when you’re trying to learn something, I do have a slight preference towards the auditory style; I love audiobooks for example. So the mindfulness practice that I could relate to the most was that of focusing on the sounds around you. The next one for me is kinesthetic – paying attention to the odors around you, for example.
4 – Make it a habit. It may sound tiering but it’s very effective. Take every little detail job that you do seriously. Filling out a form for your kids’ stationery at school should be just as important as filling out your taxes. With time this will become second nature and you won’t even feel it as tiring anymore. Better yet, do a 30 days challenge with the key word “accuracy”. If you need some motivation or inspiration to start on that just watch Matt Cutts’ TED lecture.
How about you? What are your mindless jiffies? And what other ways do you have to prevent them?