You don’t need all your ducks lined up to improve focus and mindfulness at work

10 Oct 2017 Uncategorized

How often do you feel like your mind is all over the place? Like your brain is scattered and you aren’t able to focus on things? Do you feel restless and have so many things on your mind all moving in different directions that you can’t really follow your own train of thought? Do you find yourself making excuses that you don’t have time to relax? What is mindfulness anyway and what is the hype of being in the moment? Shouldn’t I just focus of being busy and getting things done, rather than spending time noticing what I am presently doing?

If any of the above questions resonate with you, please read on…

Lessons from Dewey, Huey, Louie and Scrooge McDuck

As kids growing up, we watched DuckTales and remember how Uncle Scrooge was stingy and grumpy and how his life transformed when his nephews (Dewey, Huey and Louie) came along. We all have a Dewey, Huey, Louie and Scrooge in our mind. Our current peace of mind depends on whether we are noticing their messages and giving our ducks a break and engaging in mindfulness at work.

Wasted energy…

We use so much of our brain energy on thinking about the mistakes we’ve made, things or people we’ve lost, the times we failed, that one thing we could have done that may have avoided the hurt we faced. We also spend so much time worrying about the future – the ‘what ifs?’, even though most of our worries never actually come true.

Have you noticed how ducks look so graceful when they swim? If you were looking under the water you would see their legs moving frantically. Our minds move fast enough, we need to teach our mind to slow down above and below the surface. Let your ducks learn to swim on calm waters rather than choppy waves.

Don’t wait till you have all your Ducks in a row before you can spend time to slow down, relax, and be more centred.

Start practicing mindfulness now.

So what is Mindfulness?

It refers to paying attention to moment-to-moment internal and external experiences, thoughts, emotions, sensations, sounds, smell and surrounding environment with curiosity. You just need to look at a child staring into a fish tank for the first time to see mindfulness in action, they are completely mesmerised and fixated in the moment absorbing what they see right in front of them. There is formal and informal mindfulness.

Mindfulness meditations and deep breathing exercises, are an example of formal mindfulness, whilst focusing on how you are walking, eating, washing the dishes or watching kids playing, using in-the-moment strategies, are an example of informal mindfulness. When the mind is cluttered, it is like when our ducks are jumping around and are at war with each other. Instead, how do we get our ducks to work together?

8 practical mindful tips from Dewey, Huey and Louie and Scrooge McDuck:

Dewey – represents your current stores of ENERGY

Dewey comes in the form of mental energy and physical energy. Dewey builds you up, helps you walk, talk, think and pretty much everything you do. Lately, Dewey hasn’t been around as much as he used to. Sometimes he comes in bursts – he comes quickly and leaves as quickly. He hasn’t been consistently available.

To have the energy to put into activities and other people, requires replenishing your energy, you can’t expect to drink water out of an empty cup. Energy is important as it takes time to cultivate mindfulness, as our attention can often wander and be distracted, and needs to be gently redirected to the experience at hand.

Tip 1: STOP during your day to enhance your self-awareness and reflect on what energises and what has the opposite effect.

Tip 2: Take Action, do more of what builds your energy resources: drink water, exercise, lunchtime breaks, have a chat, etc.

Huey – represents your use of TIME

Your time, Huey, is limited and precious. Lately Huey feels stretched, like as if he is not enough. Like as if there is always more of a demand for him than he can give. He tries and tries but at the end he only has 24 bits of himself to give each day. He just cannot seem to fit in enough.

Tip 3: Slow down – to make the best decisions you need to be able to see the whole picture, this only happens when you slow down. Try walking slowly and bringing your attention to how your body moves, rather than walking briskly to your next meeting.

Tip 4: Be realistic and be prepared to not fit everything in. Remember multitasking is a myth – set time to work (or play) and focus on one thing at a time.

Read blog: busy is the new black on how to make time for yourself during the busyness of life.

Louie – represents your ability to FOCUS

Louie represents your ability to focus. Lately Louie has been hopping around, not able to sit in place. Sometimes he is at work, sometimes on your phone, sometimes with your friend, sometimes with your worries and sometimes you don’t even know where he has gone.

He is more creative and more laid back, so at times his attention can wander and he can often be found day dreaming.

Tip 5: tune into your breathing, breathe in and notice your in-breath and breathe out and notice your out-breath, feel free to add in a word, e.g. energy, relax or focus, to each in and out breathe.

Tip 6: Give yourself a micro-break by focusing on your senses. Listen to the sounds in and outside of the room, notice the temperature and smells.

Scrooge – represents your RESOURCES

Scrooge is the grumpy one, with the fixed mindset. He is stingy with his resources. He also represents a negative attitude and self-limiting beliefs. He’s the one telling Dewey, Huey and Louie that they can’t do it, that they are not enough. He is never satisfied with them. As a result, he depletes them of their resources.

Tip 7: Strengthen your growth mindset – the simple belief that learning is ongoing, change and challenges bring new opportunities and self-development, loss is a part of life and goals are achieved through dedication and sustained effort.

For more information on a growth mindset, check out the blog, What hoops do you jump through to adapt to change in your career and personal life?

Tip 8: Avoid making excuses – Friends, family and clients often making excuses of why they don’t have time to stop and appreciate the moment that they are in. “I don’t have time to do nothing and just relax, I have too much to do”. But really to help you manage your busy life style, that is exactly what you need.


Nicole Plotkin is an experienced corporate wellness trainer and principal psychologist at the Emotional Health Centre. She is passionate about working with individuals and workplaces to promote, enhance and restore wellness at work and at home through team based resilience, mental health and stress management training programs and individual counselling sessions.

Bharati Moriani is a counsellor with a background in HR and recruitment. She is currently undergoing placement at the Emotional Health Centre assisting with the Step into Mindfulness workshop.