How Mindfulness Creates A Competitive Edge

  •    Freelance journalist covering women, business, policy and social good.

In a 24/7 connected world, it's easy to blur the lines between work and life. This is especially true for eCommerce entrepreneurs, who are constantly thinking about new ways to improve their online sites and stores. One of the best ways to combat stress, fatigue and burnout - and increase productivity - is to be mindful.

To be mindful is to be fully present, aware of your surroundings and state of mind, and not over-reactive to what's going on around you, which can improve sleep, energy and cognition, according to Mindful.org.

Mindfulness also improves engagement by making you more likely to take notice of your work environment and to think more clearly about solutions -- an important edge for entrepreneurs. Businesses with highly engaged employees have a 17 percent increase in productivity and are 21 percent more profitable, reports Gallup.

Being mindful is also good for your business. Engaged employees and entrepreneurs typically have better customer relationships, including a 10 percent increase in customer metrics and a 20 percent increase in sales, according to Gallup.

Here four tips to specifically help entrepreneurs learn how to be mindful, and maintain a competitive edge.

1. Practice Daily

Although mindfulness is a basic human ability, it's easier to practice when you do so on a daily basis, reports Mindful. Just 10-15 minutes of mindful thinking each morning can improve your decision-making. The goal is simply to sit and pay attention to the present moment, without any judgement. If your mind wanders, just practice returning to the present moment as many times as needed.

Eventually, mindfulness can strengthen neural connections in the brain to boost concentration and focus, which is a key advantage for busy entrepreneurs who need to make quick decisions throughout the day.

2. Be a Good Listener

A mindful entrepreneur who is both attentive and less judgmental can encourage both ideas and innovation. Good listeners encourage trust, writes Certified Mindful Trainer David Rome. And just like mindfulness, listening requires purposeful intention and awareness of other people's feelings and views.

To be a good listener, first try to be aware of your own feelings to make sure you are able to be present for the other person, says Rome. Try to take note of your own reactions as they occur, and then return your attention to the speaker. Then paraphrase or summarize what you heard to acknowledge the other person's point of view before offering your own thoughts in return.

3. Tackle Technology

"Mindfulness is one way that many entrepreneurs choose to combat the toll wrought by round-the-clock emails, long working hours and other aspects of our accelerated business culture," writes Virgin Founder Richard Branson.

The trick to avoid burning out as an entrepreneur is to take charge of the way technology complements your business rather than letting your mobile devices dictate your time, Branson says. And don't be afraid to turn on your out-of-office email message on your days off so you can also focus on the present in your home life. "Your business will benefit as a result," he says.

4. Be Grateful

How Mindfulness Creates A Competitive Edge

Entrepreneurs who are mindful about practicing gratitude are generally happier, healthier and more energetic. UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons, an expert on gratitude argues that practicing gratitude is especially helpful for dealing with crisis conditions that entrepreneurs often face. That's because an attitude of gratitude helps to create a psychological immune system that protects you and helps you maintain perspective when things go wrong, he says.

According to Emmons, the three steps to practicing gratitude include recognizing, acknowledging, and appreciating whatever it is that you feel grateful for. A "gratitude journal" can also help you take note of what you are grateful for every day.

Being mindful can create a competitive edge for overworked entrepreneurs—and their businesses— by helping to reduce stress while also increasing engagement and productivity. There's no time like the present to get started.

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