The on-call phone rings. The emails for your property manager are beginning to pile up. A tenant’s electrical is on the fritz. This is the schedule for the day. When you hear someone tell you to work mindfulness and self-awareness into your day, it doesn’t feel like it fits in the schedule. Who has time to meditate or take a personality test? Mindfulness is not a to-do item on a checklist, it is a potent tactic to make better and more productive workers.
Speaker and author on mindfulness, Matt Tenney, said the first concept to understand surrounding self-awareness is that it is a meta skill. This means it affects all parts of your life. Self-awareness as a broad term that includes mindfulness, emotional intelligence, and the capacity to be aware of one’s emotions. All of this may not sound like something that can fit in the life of a busy building engineer, but research shows that emotional intelligence can account for 90% of the difference between ineffective and effective leadership.
First, a breakdown of emotional intelligence and self-awareness. How well do you know yourself? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What skills are you an expert in? How do you handle conflict? Answering these questions is the first step and the second is using that information to make purposeful choices throughout the day.
Moat of the day feels like an endless to-do list, Tenney says that you can actually be more productive by doing less. There are limitations to this such as on-call assignments or emergencies, but Tenney says that the overwhelming presence of technology has forced us to give up our control of our day.
The solution to regain control is by setting limits. Email batching is the first tactic Tenney suggest. Create an out of office response that tells what times of day you check your email and then list a number for emergencies. Tenney says most professionals don’t feel it is possible, but feel instant relief when they implement the system.
“The point is, you can break that habit and when you do, you’re going to be more effective,” Tenney said.
The second step of mindfulness is being purposeful. This is where real work can be done to make your days more productive and your leadership skills grow. There is a common misconception that mindfulness can only come in the form of taking a break, sitting quietly and not working. Tenney says that while that has its merits, it is not the only option.
The exercise he gives is simple. When you are walking, don’t let your brain go on autopilot. Think about walking. Change the way you do that activity and ask yourself, “Is there any thinking happening right now?” This may last ten seconds or two minutes, but even doing it once can break the cycle and declutter your mind. It can also be done driving from property to property.
“With that spirit of curiosity, instead of talking to yourself, you are actually listening to yourself,” Tenney says.
The last factor in practicing mindfulness is its impact of your day-to-day life. Leaders are expected to give all their energy, mentally and physically, to their properties. This becomes impossible and as a leader, you become less effective if you are running on empty. Mindfulness is self -awareness training and can lead to better team building and decision making.
Knowing your strengths will allow you to create more balanced teams. An unbalanced team can be the root of inefficiencies or poor communication down the line. A good team of building engineers includes people with different knowledge bases and skill sets. Not only does this let the team well work together, but it is better for the property. Forming this team is impossible if you are not familiar with your own strengths.
Decision making is a core skill for building and operations professionals. Being overwhelmed or not purposeful with choices can lead to poor fight or flight responses in the time of an emergency. Practicing mindfulness and taking the time to get to know yourself is a major component of growing as a leader and being better at your job.