In a recent article for The Harvard Business Review, former Google engineer Chade-Meng Tan highlights a mindfulness practice used regularly by one Google exec.
Before every meeting, Karen May, Google’s vice president of people development, recharges by taking one “mindful breath.”
In the HBR article, Tan describes the process of mindful breathing: “It takes [May] roughly six seconds, and in that time she brings her full attention to one breath, resetting her body and mind.”
Tan explains that mindful breaths work to calm the body and the mind, which in turn helps to make you a better manager. “The ability to think calmly under fire is a hallmark of great leadership,” he writes.
The concept of a mindful breath isn’t exclusive to Googlers. Deborah Schoeberlein David, author of “Living Mindfully,” writes about a similar strategy in The Huffington Post. David compares the brain to a computer, and suggests that when the brain is overloaded with cognitive tasks and emotions, it experiences a decrease in processing speed.
She writes: “This very brief pause [the mindful breath] helps the ‘thinking’ part of your brain catch up with the ’emotional’ part, priming you to refocus more clearly and make better decisions.”
David recommends taking a mindful breath before responding to challenging emails or comments and before answering the phone, as well as before meetings.
For those who feel intimidated by the idea of a formal meditation session, or for those with limited time on their hands, this strategy is an ideal way to incorporate mindfulness into daily life.
Other, similar mindfulness practices, cited by Alice Boyes on Psychology Today, include taking two mindful bites of food and looking out the window for just a few minutes between appointments.
The overarching theme behind all these strategies is that pausing — even briefly — can help you manage stress and perform better under pressure, whether you’re working at Google or anywhere else.