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Suffering information overload…? Maybe mindfulness can help

Your inbox is full, your landline and mobile phones are ringing at the same time, your Twitter feed is overflowing, two of your team need to see you right now…and the deadline for today’s newsletter is looming.

It’s a scene many communicators – indeed employees of all kinds – will recognise.

Maybe mindfulness can help.

IoIC Live 2016 will offer a chance to be find out the benefits of mindfulness for both you and your organisation.

“Mindfulness helps you to focus - and focus for longer on one thing,” explains Dr Nick Buckley, who will host a one-hour session on the subject at the Institute’s annual conference in Birmingham on Friday May 6.

“It doesn’t mean you ignore everything else, it means you’re deciding when and where to be distracted rather than being dragged in to something else,” he explains.

Dr Buckley says the three watchwords of mindfulness are: priorities, focus and choice.

The two big reasons for adopting the practice are distraction and pressure.

“One of the main things it helps with is distraction,” he says. “You have notifications on social media, emails, people calling you or waiting by your desk… You have information overload.

“Working in an environment where you’re being bombarded with real dilemmas of what to do next, you’ll always have that stuck in the back of your mind.

“Often you’re not doing something you chose to do but were nudged into doing.”

Even if you’re confident in making your own choices, there is still pressure.

“If you have three major tasks and you have prioritised, you can still only do one at a time,” says Dr Buckley. “Dwelling on the other two things will sap your energy or make you anxious and that makes you less effective.

“Mindfulness will help you concentrate fully on the one thing you’re doing now.”

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness, at its root, is something that you do. It’s an activity. It’s a way of paying attention - on purpose – in the present to things as they actually are, and without judging.

“‘Things’ is a vague word,” admits Dr Buckley (pictured right). “We often think what we’re paying attention to is what is in front of us right now, whether it’s messages, people or objects - but we’re paying attention to a complicated combination of those things.

“Our responses and thoughts are emotional responses to them – our brain responds emotionally.

“Mindfulness is a practice. By practising, like any other skill, you repeat it a lot and after while you’re able to step back a little bit or gain extra time between your experience and what happens next.

“There’s a way of thinking about something – how it’s making me feel and how feeling a certain way is determining what I do next. When you can see those things you can work with them to maybe take a different approach.”

Mindfulness can work for everybody - in the same way as getting enough sleep or eating a good diet does.

“You’re better equipped to do whatever you do,” he explains.

Sceptical people might look at many workplaces and say it’s a sticking plaster and the underlying problems remain.

“That’s something we’re wary of,” says the Yorkshireman. “If you have people working in a dysfunctional or badly set up organisation, there’s a risk that, in isolation, all mindfulness will do is make the pressure bearable or take away the pain.

“What actually happens is you wake people up, so people who aren’t particularly happy with their job will do something about it – and tell you so. Or even start to help change it!

“That’s part of the message. It’s part of culture change.

“It’s great to use it in the workplace because you have a lot of people together and if they all start changing at the same time the effect can be powerful.”

IoIC Live: Whose mind is it anyway?

Dr Buckley will lead a 60-minute session on mindfulness at IoIC Live – it will be an optional breakout during the morning of Friday May 6, and it will be active.

“Mindfulness is something you do, something you have to practise,” he stresses. “So I’m not going to spend my hour telling people about it, we’re going to try it.

“We’ll start by getting people to try not to think – and they’ll no doubt get distracted! But we’ll gather feedback, try breathing exercises, talk about the science behind it, what’s going on in your brain and guide people who want to know more.”

He says a one-off session is a bit like the induction at the gym.

“After that one hour, you’re not suddenly fit and able to run 20 miles, but you have some idea about what to do and you’ve taken the first step,” he explains. “What makes you fit is turning out two, three or four times a week and doing exercise repeatedly.”

IoIC Live 2016 will take place in Birmingham, starting with an evening session on Thursday May 5 followed by a full programme of speakers and workshops on Friday May 6.
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