10 tips for mindful work

September 9th, 2013

It has been 15 years since I’ve spent 60 or more hours each week in an office, and at no time during the long stretch of my professional career was I anything but profoundly inattentive. Still, those days brought the dawn of a penetrating realization that my work was not the problem. Work is never the problem.

In that spirit, I offer these 10 Tips for Mindful Work, or What I Would Do Differently if I Had It All to Do Over Again:

Be on time
Self-discipline is the foundation of all success and the essence of self-respect.

Work is not a distraction from your life; it is not a detour, hindrance or necessary evil. If you think this way it is the wrong view. When you are working, work is your life. Care for it as you care for yourself. As Dogen Zenji says, “If you find one thing wearisome, you will find everything wearisome.”

Make a list
Start each day with a list of things to do. Control is an illusion, so wise up and keep the list short.

Forget the list
Do not mistake a list for the thing. Adapt to the flow of real events as they occur. Adaptation is innovation and innovation is genius.

Attend to what appears
What appears in front of you is the only thing there is. Respond appropriately as things arise, and crises will not overtake you.

Avoid gossip
Viruses spread. Keep your hands clean and cover your mouth.

The workplace is a theater, and the drama is make-believe. Everyone appreciates a good laugh. When you can do anything as though you work at nothing, you have the best days of your life.

Give credit
No amount of money is enough. Be generous with your kindness, courtesy and thanks. They will always be repaid.

Take the rest of the day off
Do your work, then set it down. Let others praise or blame.

Do it all over again
Rise and shine. An ancient teacher said, “A day without work is a day without eating.” Take every chance to do it differently, and your life will transform.


It’s another Mindfulness Reminder Week on the blog. I’m reprising some of my most popular posts on mindfulness at home and work. To learn how to put the preaching into practice, come to the Plunge Retreat in Boise on Saturday, Oct. 5.

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  1. To receive this now, the perfect parting gift as I celebrate with my friends and colleagues later today the end of my 27 year career. To share with them, to take with me into my next chapter. Thank you, Karen, always.

    Comment by Katharine Weinmann — June 27, 2012 @ 11:17 am

  2. I often visit this blog of yours, feeding on your kind and wise and ‘simlpe’ words. Those words calm me, reassure me, comfort me, light me very often.

    So, upon reading these tips, I realise that I offend tip #8 often, and I hereby say a very sincere “t*h*a*n*k*s” to you…


    Comment by Jacques — June 28, 2012 @ 3:46 am

  3. Jacques, you’re welcome.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — June 28, 2012 @ 6:06 am

  4. This is brilliant, Karen! Love the last one especially much: “Take every chance to do it differently, and your life will transform.”

    Comment by Susan Viljoen — June 28, 2012 @ 11:09 am

  5. Work is its own cure. You have to
    like it better than being loved.
    ~ Marge Piercy

    Comment by Jena — July 1, 2012 @ 2:32 am

  6. Thank you for this, Karen,, simple and powerful and very helpful.

    Comment by Clare — September 11, 2013 @ 4:27 am

  7. Hung it near my desk. Wonderful.

    Comment by Liz — September 23, 2013 @ 12:25 am

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