How to be mindful and resilient in the virtual space?

Jul 21, 2020 | #virtualclassroom, #virtualevents, #virtualtraining

🚀 Become a #virtualspacehero 

Key takeaways from a #virtualspacehero LinkedIn LIVE

10.07.2020 | 18:15 CET

How to grow healthy pomodoros for your personal productivity?
Or: How can we be mindful in the virtual space?

with Emanuele (Lele) Terenzani (IBM) &  Barbara Covarrubias Venegas #virtualspacehero

We are living in a fast changing society, that the recent pandemic made even more challenging. Chances that you are feeling stressed, emotionally overwhelmed during this ambiguous time are very high. In fact, this is quite normal. Some of us were and are still struggling with self-isolation, lockdowns and quarantines while seeking peace on one hand and self-motivation/productivity on the other hand. And how can we self-motivate, organize ourselves better and be productive while being in self-isolation and connecting with each other mainly in the virtual space? 

In this #virtualspacehero #LinkedIn live Emanuele Terenzani and Barbara Covarrubias Venegas have been discussing these questions and reflected on productivity, creativity and mindfulness in the virtual space.

🎥 💻 If you want to watch the LinkedIn LIVE recording, here you go 

Mindfulness: in-presence vs. the virtual space 

In order to understand the term mindfulness better, we can trace it back to Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor of medicine and the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine. He introduced mindfulness practice to the American society (more about Jon Kabat-Zinn here). According to him, mindfulness is a practice of paying attention. 

“For me, mindfulness is knowing that you are doing something when you are doing it. Focusing on the moment without being lost in your thoughts or without being on autopilot.” (Emanuele Terenzani)

One of the greatest challenges of modern society is information quantity, and media fatigue. We are confronted with countless information overloading us from different sides, various communication channels, and different social media platforms. Therefore, it is not surprising if we cannot focus and pay attention. 

“When it comes to mindfulness, it is important that wherever you are, to be really present there. And, whatever you are doing, that you are intentionally doing it!” (Barbara Covarrubias Venegas)

Also, some of us might have succeeded in mindfulness practice in pre-pandemics time. Now, it seems to be even more challenging since we shifted from in-presence work environments, which we were used to and knew well,  to the virtual space – something new for most of us. Businesses switched their work modes to remote work and virtual communication platforms such as Zoom, google Meet, Jitsi, MS Teams or webex. Due to our lack of experience and knowledge on how to work in the virtual space, how to run virtual meetings or video calls properly, many of us drift away after a couple of minutes. Furthermore, we saw that meetings took over many of our calendars, which led for many of us to a huge workload and little time for reflection or even recovery in between.

How can we become more mindful when we are working online?

💡 Self-reflection. Reflecting on your daily routine and habits, such as how many times did you actually be present in the moment?
💡 Awareness. Distractions happen all the time in virtual space. Become aware of unnecessary distractions such as notifications which you can switch off to maintain your focus.
💡 Physical activity can help you stay focused. In-between virtual meetings it can be always helpful to stand up, walk a bit, move your body or just shake or stretch a bit. If your meeting lasts more than one hour be sure to build in a mindful movement break!
💡 Meta-thinking. Think about your thinking! What are your daily thoughts? Focus and reflect on them.

Besides, facilitating a mindful practice group might be an option you want to consider for your virtual team, whether you are the team leader or a team member, does not matter.

Mindfulness and inclusion

“Our cultural background influences our biases. We cannot undo that. But what we can do is to pay attention, be aware and focus. Then, we can choose how to act! That is how mindfulness fosters inclusion” (Emanuele Terenzani)

When working in an intercultural and very diverse team, many conflicts can arise. A mindfulness practice can help individuals, leaders, teams and also on an organizational level. However, individual and team mindfulness is a bit different. A study done by Lingtao Yu and Mary Zellmer-Bruhn (Harvard Business Review Article), showed that a team mindfulness practices can help reduce negative sides of conflicts. (Academic Paper: Introducing Team Mindfulness and Considering its Safeguard Role Against Conflict Transformation and Social Undermining).

Usually, we don’t see the big picture when we are under stress. Stressful situations are very often happening when we are in an unknown environment, e.g. abroad or in a different cultural context. Yet, when we stop and take a breath, somehow, we have clearer thoughts. That is mindfulness happening right there! Have a read through our other blog post about adressing unconscious bias here.

Stopping for a moment and focusing on “deep breathing in and breathing out” can be one of many mindfulness practices. Because in that moment we are able to move from a judgmental state to a rather descriptive state of the situation. If leaders include mindfulness practices in their organizations, it is more likely that the organizational culture will be more inclusive. People will feel more relaxed and open because they feel safe. It is a leader’s responsibility to create this kind of environment, and mindfulness practices can help with that. Mindfulness helps leaders grow and create welcoming environments, have a read through this article “Address diversity and Inclusion through mindfulness”.

Practicing mindfulness when in the virtual space: Where should I start?

Small exercises can help you start if you have no previous experience with mindfulness practices or meditation. We have a couple of suggestions on what to do  while working online to focus again.

💡 Bring your attention to the current moment. Are you sitting on a chair? Well then, feel the contact of your body with the object.
💡 Bring your attention to your weight or the gravity.
💡 Become aware of your clothes. We are wearing our clothes all day and we don’t even notice it. Try to feel your clothes.
💡 Feel the temperature. Feel the air circulation around you.
💡 Put attention to the sounds in the room or wherever you are.
💡 Breathe. Take two deep breaths. Feel the whole experience of breathing- in and breathing-out.

How to grow healthy pomodoros for your personal productivity?

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. Each interval is known as a pomodoro, from the Italian word for ‘tomato’, after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo used as a university student. The technique has been widely popularized by dozens of apps and websites providing timers and instructions (e.g. PomoDone, Focus Booster and many more). More information about the technique itself can be found here.

There are many mindfulness exercises, methods and practices. Besides, there are many applications supporting you in finding your way to mindfulness (list at the end of this article). Still, you need to find the one (exercise or app) that best fits you. Regardless of which one you chose, you should do the mindfulness exercises regularly. We have an ability to train our muscles and become physically stronger. But also, we have an ability to train our brain to become more focused. Our neuroplasticity allows us to build our neuro-muscles and become mindful (again?). 

Consistency is the key!

Are you mind-full or mindful?

Emanuele Terenzani

Emanuele Terenzani

Connect with me on LinkedIn  and follow me to be notified about upcoming #virtualspacehero LinkedIn LIVE Events.

Blog Team

Tamara Mladenovic

Tamara Mladenovic





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