Need to focus on what matters at work? Just breathe

Sometimes, the best secret work weapons are the simplest. For Josh Bullmore, chief strategy officer at Leo Burnett London, it's as simple as breathing.

My secret work weapon is breathing. Which may sound as revelatory as saying that walking is my cunning way to get from A to B in the office, or that my mouth is my preferred orifice for consuming a lunchtime sandwich.

But there’s something more profound to be said about the importance of taking a breath. Consciously taking a breath. Pausing and thinking. In a world which seems to conspire to pull us headlong into the next experience. And we can all too easily find we have been distracted by what others want, rather than what matters to us. 

It’s perhaps ironic that we spend our time trying to create alluring consumer journeys for brands, intended to lead them in a direction of our choosing. Yet we fall all too easily into the same traps ourselves. 

We talk about an attention economy, yet are often pretty uneconomical with our attention. We end up prioritising our diaries rather than diarising our priorities.

And taking a breath can help us ensure we are focused. It helps us refocus. On what matters to us. 

Leadership thinking often praises authenticity. It encourages us to be ourselves. And it’s all too easy to interpret this as just acting how we feel in any given situation. And letting others deal with the consequences. But carrying over frustration or jubilation from one meeting to the next, where it may be inappropriate, doesn’t help anyone. Instead, we need to be ourselves, but with skill. Which means stopping. Breathing. And thinking what aspect of ourselves will be of most use to others in a given situation. 

But don’t take my word for it. Give it a go. Pop to the nearest quiet space. A moderately clean loo will do. Sit down. Shut your eyes. Breathe out for as long as you can through your mouth. Breathe in deeply through your nose. Repeat six times.

And pause.

Josh Bullmore is chief strategy officer at Leo Burnett London

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