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Learn to Train Your Brain

Author: David McGrane

Every day (or most of them) you do your job - you get things done, deal with inherent stress and complications, but you persevere, survive and (ideally) thrive.

Just getting through a day on the job has never been more complex, though. We have so very many sources of input and distraction. Incessant emails and texts and Slack and meetings and Zoom calls. When does it ever end, right?

Well, it may not end anytime soon, but you can take little breaks. In fact, there are myriad scientific studies that show it is vital to your health to take little breaks. Bonus point, those same studies prove it also enhances productivity.

Enter mindfulness. It’s a long word that’s about a set of practices that have been around for a long time. Again, science has shown that mindfulness applied regularly and often has definite, verifiable benefits. So how do you get some in your day? Well, actually there are many ways.

You see mindfulness is really all about training your brain to be more in the moment. Our brains are pretty unruly. They race off in all directions at the slightest distraction. What a mindfulness practice can do for you is help quiet your mind, give you back control, help you sift through all the noise, and focus on what’s most important in this moment. Being able to focus is key - for our jobs, our lives, our health, and our happiness.

So practice some simple mindfulness techniques every day - the cumulative effect over time can be quite dazzling.

Start with some basics. Set aside 3 to 5 minutes initially to simply sit. That’s all, just sit. It doesn’t have to be in a yoga pose, or a sound-proofed room, anywhere comfortable will do. Just sit, and breathe. Focus on your breath though, note it going in through the nose, out through the mouth. Pay attention to it as it fills your lungs, as your abdomen (ideally) rises and falls, notice how life enters your body with every in-breath, stress eases a little with every out-breath.

Please note that mindfulness is all about non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. So you will be distracted, everyone is, that’s OK! Your mind will wander, to things that just happened or things that might happen, that’s OK, everyone’s does. Do not judge yourself (or your brain, it’s just doing its unruly thing), but do acknowledge you were distracted, then gently bring your focus back to your breath. That’s it. Do that, over and over. Start with 3 to 5 minutes. Over time you can ramp it up a little, but the key is to do it consistently.

How do you do that during a busy day? Set a reminder. Take your three minute break in the morning, and again in the afternoon. Aim to finish one of those meetings just three minutes early. Do it while you are waiting for your coffee, or on your commute, or even just walking the halls (or once around the block). Yes, it can be done while walking as easily as while sitting. Again, no judgment if you can’t do it as often as you’d like, but try to do it daily. The results will be worth it!

In fact, here’s an idea. Try it now. Start right now in the middle of this busy day. Take a small break from your job to train your brain to focus on this very moment, and enjoy all the benefits of a quieter mind. There’s is no time like right now. Good luck!

David McGrane is a brand and creative consultant who is studying for his mindfulness instructor credentials because he believes a quieter mind will help him and all those he works with. He’s also a good friend of the Job Shop.

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