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More Mindless in the Office

Somehow, when we weren’t looking, a whole new psychological trend has popped up. It’s called “mindfulness,” and, apparently, it’s the mental state to which we must all aspire.

It’s true! While we were busy getting hammered, and getting baked, everybody decided that the goal should be getting clear. Not clear in the Scientology sense – so you Thetas out there can call off your Martian lawyers – but clear as in the sense that we fully understand, appreciate, and experience what we are actually feeling at any given minute.

If one is to believe “5 Quick and Easy Mindfulness Exercises You Can Do in the office,” an article by Tiffany Teng, printed in Levo, reprinted in FastCompany, and forwarded to me by LinkedIn, mindfulness is definitely worth achieving. As the author explains, “When you feel close to flipping out, try one of these simple exercises to clear your head and calm your nerves.”

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The No. 1 technique is “Give Yourself Some Credit.” According to mindfulness expert to the Fortune 500, Kim Nicol, “you are your own worst critic.” This seems hard to believe, considering the looks you get from your manager, but, then again, it’s hard to believe that companies in the Fortune 500 are paying mega-bucks for a mindfulness consultant. [Aren’t they busy enough stuffing their pockets and polluting the environment? Do they also have to be mindful about it?]

Even if you like the idea of giving yourself credit, it won’t be easy to do. This exercise demands you “make a list of your accomplishments that day,” so “your mind-set will instantly shift back to a positive place.”

This is definitely not the exercise for you. If your boss ever saw your list of accomplishments the only positive place you’ll shift to is the unemployment office.

A better choice is exercise No. 2, “Create a To-Be List.” Instead of making a list of what you’re supposed to do, make a list of how you’re supposed to be. As in “Curt or understanding? Defensive or open-minded?” In your case, these states seem fairly aspirational, but you may be able to pull off totally hysterical or mildly depressed? Punishingly hostile or pleasantly catatonic?

Note: Author Teng recommends listing your desired states on a Post-it, which you write by hand “as a physical cue that adds positive reinforcement.” Wouldn’t it be even more mindful to use a crayon, or spray paint on the office wall?

“Get Physical with Body Language” is exercise No. 3. This is a heavy-breathing exercise that requires you to sit “with your feet on the floor, close your eyes and place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly.” This is probably easy for you, and breathing is one of your few athletic skills. Unfortunately, it’s been several years since you could reach your belly. Maybe you can do this exercise with two hands on your chest. That way, when the boss walks by and sees you, breathing mindfully, she’ll think you’re in cardiac arrest and let you leave 15 minutes early.

No. 4 is my definite favorite exercise – “Put on Your Favorite Pants.” Our managers ask a lot of us, but I think we can all agree that is reasonable for them to request that we don’t come to work without our pants. The exercise itself involves rubbing your thighs for three minutes while focusing on how your pants feel. If you are not reported to HR for inappropriate sexual advances on a pair of polyester yoga pants, you will definitely feel something, if not mindfulness. [If you don’t have a favorite pair of pants, use your favorite underpants.]

“Take 20 Minutes to Brainstorm Digital-Free” is the fifth and final exercise. Again, author Teng has her readers using Post-it Notes, this time in a brainstorm meeting where phones and other digital devices are not allowed. [Were I a better reporter, I would check to see if this entire Levo company is funded by the 3M Company, but I’ll stick with my original assumption that it’s a KGB front.]

Bottom line: Anyone who owns a pair of pants can achieve mindfulness. The mental state we want to achieve at work is much more difficult to attain. We want our time at the job to pass quickly without noticing we are at work, instead of somewhere we’d like to be. Which is just about anywhere else.

So, forget mindfulness. I’m talking about achieving complete mindlessness. And – good news! – you’re almost there.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@bgplanning.com.

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