By finding a balance between autopilot and intention, we can increase our sense of accomplishment and reduce our stress levels. Whether it is our commute to work or mindlessly clocking in and out, the routines around and during our work day provide us with great opportunities to add a little more mindfulness to our lives.

Ugh, mindfulness

No need to start doing yoga or juicing your own organic vegetables yet, but step one in living a more balanced life is simply intending to do so.

According to the UMass Medical School Center for Medicine, Healthcare and Society: "While time may feel like a challenge, adding mindfulness into our lives tends to help us prioritize and become efficient at work. Additionally, taking time to restore and rebalance can give us more energy reserves to meet the demands of our very busy lives."

Recognize the situations, habits and schedules that constitute your normal routine — whether you like them or not. Your commute, dress code, lunch and break habits, and time management style are all areas you can upgrade with a sprinkle of intention.

Routines provide a great opportunity for introducing new habits if you take an active approach to accomplishing them. Start by asking a basic question like, "How can I make this activity better?" Doing so will helps us set an intention, like "I am going to make my daily commute more interesting."

Once we are clear on what we want to do, we can focus on creative ways to assess how we're going to do it. In this case, adding a wide variety of podcasts to my phone helped make my commute more interesting.


Still too much? If it seems feelings of stress and frustration are rooted in having too many things to do and adding another task to something that was previously on autopilot may just be the straw that breaks the camel's back, then start smaller. Letting routines be routine can be just as beneficial.

Tasks that are repetitive or do not require our full attention can provide great opportunities for meditation. In a famous story by Thich Naht Hanh, we are cautioned if all we do while washing the dishes is think about the cup of tea we are going to drink after we finish the dishes, then we are not actually doing the dishes. Odds are we won't actually be drinking our cup of tea afterward either, because we will be spending our mental time thinking of something else in the future. We will never catch up with what we are doing now.

The idea behind this? Be present in the action you are doing; get lost paying attention to the routine thing you are doing. By doing so, we will not constantly feel pulled into the future, what has yet to be done and the feelings associated with the lack of accomplishment. We can accomplish what we are doing now.

Try it! By simply approaching the activity with intention, we can go far in helping reduce stress and gain a sense of accomplishment.