Mindfulness in Information Technology
Technology is pretty awesome. We built a business around it, after all. No one can deny the great things made possible through tech of all forms, but many have also claimed it has led to an increase in noise, stress, distractions — all of which are being fought by the latest movement around mindfulness.
How can practicing mindfulness help you in your Information Technology experiences? Whether you’re a helpdesk worker or sysadmin, an ancillary business worker or simply a consumer of IT applications, remaining mindful helps keep you calm and focused.
Here’s how mindfulness and IT can work hand in hand.
What is mindfulness?
It might sound like new age claptrap, but mindfulness stems from Buddhist teachings to focus your mind and body together. It can help lower stress and boost memory as well as concentration.
With practice, mindfulness can help you be aware of the present moment, rather than letting your mind race away with various possibilities, memories, and emotions. As it relates to technology, mindfulness helps you zero in on the task at hand, as well as your current mental and physical state, rather than losing yourself in the computer, phone, or application being used.
Mindfulness teachings usually include meditation, allowing one’s mind to roam, and focusing on specific objects or thoughts, allowing oneself to experience a single object or thought.
Mindfulness in Business
Many companies, especially in the tech realm, have taken mindfulness to heart. Google offers a meditation maze on one campus, while Twitter and Facebook have integrated contemplative practices into their corporate culture.
While organized meditation may or may not be a good fit for your business, mindfulness as a practice can lead to various business benefits. Studies have shown it decreases stress, improves focus, boosts memory, and makes one more likely to help coworkers.
Take a few ten minute breaks throughout the day in which you put everything aside and focus on your breath. Don’t control or change your breathing, just notice how you are breathing. If your mind wanders or you start thinking about something else, focus back on your breath. This helps train your brain to calm the amygdala, the center for anxiety and anger.
Give your team permission to escape technology throughout the day, whether that means going for a long undisturbed walk, using a quiet space for meditation, or leaving their phone somewhere else during a meeting.
Mindfulness in I.T.
It isn’t hard to see how increased focus and lower stress can translate to the IT world. This is an industry in which fires inevitably appear and must be put out. A critical system goes down. Data is lost and must be restored — but oh god, did you schedule your backup yesterday? There’s a hundred customers calling in for updates. We need to respond to those tickets AND troubleshoot the cloud platform ASAP.
Practicing mindfulness helps your staff stay on track in these types of high-stress, high-impact situations. It can also help them work together, as you’re more open to dissenting opinions with regular mindfulness practice. This pays huge dividends for customer-facing roles like service and support as well.
Practice this type of open communication, free from judgement and full of curiosity and openness. Allow debate and inquiries of all types. Set aside a regular Mindful Q&A session in which team members are encouraged to ask about the mission, lessons learned, and intentions behind business and technology initiatives.
Increased focus can improve coding and help one get into a “flow state,” that seemingly automatic sense of focus and task completion that occurs when you’re facing a physical or mental challenge and really get “in the zone.”
Step Away from the Technology…Or Make Use of It
While many mindfulness practices preach removing technology from the equation in order to focus the mind without distraction, there are some that encourage the use of technology, or work around it.
You can try it yourself at your computer, right now. Take notice of your actual computer monitor itself. Trace the contours and edges. Move between looking at the object itself – the light reflections, the buttons, the weight of it on your desk – and the content on the screen. Notice how your thoughts and reactions change between them. Try to simply observe rather than allowing context or associations to crowd your thoughts.
You can also work in quick mindfulness breaks by observing yourself using your technology. How are you typing? How does your body feel in your chair? Focus on your posture. Straighten your back and sit upright while remaining as still as possible. Are you blinking? Are you breathing deeply or heavily? How do you feel before or after you launch a specific application? The idea is to recognize and note your physical and mental reactions to specific stimuli.
There are even some applications designed to focus your mindfulness itself, like one that rings a bell every 15 minutes. Countless Youtube videos exist for meditation and can be a great launching point to integrate mindfulness into your day.
While the physical and mental benefits of mindfulness may not be for everyone, they can help your IT staff remain calm and focused under fire, searching for solutions rather than panicking. They can also be a good way to foster team building and inter-personal relationships. Consider including them in a regularly scheduled manner and soliciting feedback to see if they help your business run more smoothly.