As an Account Manager here at BlueKey, my attention is continually shifting between keeping up with my projects, attending to client needs, and maintaining the schedules of my team. From meeting to meeting, I’m checking in with pretty much everything and everyone other than myself. And then—deep breath—I remember to come back to the present moment.
I’m also a yoga teacher. The word “yoga” is simply defined as “union,” and in the physical form, it’s a union of breath and body, effort and ease. The mental practice focuses on cultivating awareness, quieting the mind, creating balance, and intentionally being mindful—something that has naturally become a big part of who I am and how I work off the yoga mat.
It's all about balance
By any standards, work-life balance at BlueKey is great. Almost everyone has a side hustle, a passion project, or a growing family. We enjoy each other’s company and have the luxury of calling it a day by 5:30pm. With that company culture comes a lot of hard work, focus, and much-needed productivity.
I call this ‘work-work’ balance: the key to showing up for your team, staying on task, and getting your mind right in the moments when a clear head is needed most. Like most goal setting, incorporating mindfulness into your work day takes practice, patience, and perseverance.
Of all the valuable lessons learned over the years, I always come back to my key takeaways from the mindfulness portion of my yoga teacher training. On day one of the training, my mentor said, “What I know is based on what I’ve studied, learned and experienced. In sharing this information with you, I invite you to choose what resonates, and then do the work.”
Now, in sharing these lessons for work-work balance myself, I hope that you’re able to do the same. Things will shift, I promise.
1. Show up.
You show up for work every day, but how do you show up? That same first day of my teacher training, everyone in the class made a commitment:
1. Show up for yourself on time, ready to work and learn.
2. Show up for each other and listen when other people are talking, without distractions. Try not to even think about what you’re going to say next. Just listen.
Then, we raised our hands and committed to the group that we would “show up” every day. Looking back on those 200 hours, there were a lot of early mornings, long days, 30-minute meditations, and physical challenges. There wasn’t a single time that one of us was late or unaccountable. So many impactful stories and lessons were retained that summer, simply by being completely present for the experience.
essential listening = mindful respect
Two years and a whole lot of work meetings later, this practice is still working for me. I’m not advocating for gathering everyone in the conference room to make this same promise. Just choose to show up. Be on time to keep things rolling, leave your phone at your desk to avoid distractions, and listen when other people are talking. The goal here is to retain the information being shared in the moment, not anything else.
2. Be present.
While fairly obvious, this mindfulness tactic is equally tough.
One of the main goals of practicing yoga and meditation is to calm the “monkey mind.” Much like a monkey swinging from tree to tree, our thoughts jump from one thing to the next (and back again), without us even realizing it. With a million distractions popping up throughout the day, focusing on one thing at a time is not easy. Focusing at work seems even more difficult when there’s a deadline approaching, or when you feel as though you’re herding cats.
Most days, I get in the zone with noise-cancelling headphones, a solid playlist, my phone out of sight, notifications turned off, and coffee in hand. Then there are checklists, productivity tracking, TED Talks for inspiration, or maybe Day Theming to organize my tasks. While there are lots of helpful resources and tools to help reel it in, my fail-safe method is the practice of coming back to my own breath.
3. Breathe: stretch, shake, let it go.
If at any point in your day you feel overwhelmed, I encourage you to bring your awareness to your breath moving in and out of your body.
Take the time to reset if it’s needed. Go in the bathroom or an empty office, close your eyes, plug your left nostril with your left pointer finger knuckle, take a big inhale, and then plug your right nostril with that same knuckle. Now, take a big exhale. Repeat for one minute. This technique is called Alternate Nostril Breathing and it’s extremely effective in calming the nervous system, facilitating concentration, and, if you’re up for it, preparing for meditation.
Too heady of a sensation? Try a forward fold—positioning your body folded over with knees slightly bent, your head heavy. Allow the shoulders to slump a bit and notice any tension in your upper spine and/or neck. Release said tension by shaking your head no, shake it yes. Try visualizing everything from your day just rolling off your back and onto the floor. Pressing down through your feet, slowly roll up, and add some shoulder rolls to loosen up. Then, notice what’s shifted, and return to your work feeling calmer and less weighed down.
4. Take breaks!
I heard a great talk for Project Managers recently where the speaker said, “When it feels like you can’t possibly stop doing things, you must stop doing things.”
Taking a breather is great, and sometimes, you need a real break. Detach from everyone and everything, move around, and create some space. If you have an hour for lunch, take it. Yes, there will be days where meetings are scheduled during this time. No sweat—fifteen minutes is all you need for a solid bounce-back.
I make time for at least one solid break a day. Sometimes I hop on my bike for a cruise around town, other times I walk down to the local park with some jams to soak up the sunshine and clear my head. If personal ‘life stuff’ creeps in, try journaling it out. For best results, try to keep your phone out of the mix—this will help with staying present.
Journal prompt from Wellness Wednesday with Caryn O’Hara
If you really need to clear your head and are open to trying meditation, HeadSpace is a great tool that helps create space between thoughts (calming the monkey mind). While there are numerous benefits to a regular meditation practice, this idea of creating space in the mind helps us remember the things that are important and forget the things that aren’t.
5. Create a culture around wellness.
Wellness Wednesday is my favorite work day. From 11am to noon, a local provider from the yoga/wellness community comes to our office to teach yoga (I’m one of the teachers!), lead meditations, provide Ayurvedic workshops, or give massages.
The BlueKey team participating in some Wellness Wednesday yoga.
Participation is optional, and depending on the weather or busy schedules, some of the team go off to do their own thing. Regardless, everyone reconvenes back at the kitchen for lunch together—salads, juice, and good old healthy conversation. Then, it’s back to work.
"Having a space to pause in the office during the week increases my productivity immensely,” my fellow Account Manager Liz Wall shared.
“We don't realize the pace we’re running until we take time to pause. It’s game-changing for my stress levels in a face-paced culture like ours.”
Mindfulness is intentional, and finding work-work balance takes practice. By intentionally showing up, staying present, taking breaks as needed, and remembering to breathe, your reality will beneficially shift. You just have to do the work!