Out of Office: Daily Reflection Tools for Busy, Working People

Posted by Caitlin Joyce on Wednesday, November 5, 2014 at 9:07 PM PST

Many alumni, who are working in careers from education to law, to corporate and non-profit, are seeking how to make faith and spiritually a part of their everyday lives. The practice of being a Contemplative in Action takes work, but is doable… and often necessary.

What would it look like if you put an “Out of Office” message on your work email at lunch, found another space to be in, and took some time to reflect on the day thus far? Might that be a different idea than what you had in mind when you think of “prayer” or “meditation”? 

Chris Lowney, author of Heroic Leadership  and Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way He Leads, writes about the need to find meaning in the midst of the business and busyness of life: “Precisely when my corporate life was busiest did I really, really need to allow time for reflection… But you have to commit to it. If it is not a habit, it doesn’t happen because other more pressing (if ultimately less important) tasks will always crowd recollection from the schedule. Ten minutes of personal space can always wait; finishing the memo always seems like it can’t.”

There are so many variations of daily reflection tools, particularly the Ignatian Examen, that are made to suit different styles and schedules, even for the busiest of professionals. For example, Randy Hain, Senior Editor for The Integrated Catholic Life™, and author of The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work, has developed an Examen for Busy Business People which is broken down throughout the day. It includes five brief times (three to five minutes each) where you pause to either give thanks, pray for insight, find God in all things, ask for what is needed, and plan for tomorrow.

Or, there is the Lunchtime Examen.

by Jim Manney, author of A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer: Discovering the Power of St. Ignatius Loyola’s Examen. Jim leads you through an audio Examen with slides which you can view and listen to at your desk, as well as with an accompanying journal page (so no need to even leave the office!) It’s great if you are a habitual eat-at-your-desk type, or can’t leave your work space.

Another great reflection is by Paul Brian Campbell, S.J., who adapted the Ignatian Examen for Managers managers to reflect at the end of the day: “Imagine you’re at home at the end of another busy day at work. You plop down in front of the TV and, instead of some dumb quiz show, you’re looking at yourself going through the day at work.” Now, that would be different, wouldn’t it? His Examen asks questions like:

From your perspective as a manager, what was the high point of the day?

When did you struggle to stay focused and engaged?

How hectic was the day?

What are you going to do to help your direct reports work more effectively and with greater satisfaction?

If the Examen is not your style, or if you prefer something else less formulaic, poetry can be another way of pausing. Reading something by Mary Oliver or Rumi can help to break the monotony of the work day, and allow you to listen with another aspect of yourself: your heart. One great poem to use is Lynn Ungar’s Camas Lilies, which speaks of the fact that even as important as our work is, we must take time to rest.

So, how will you incorporate reflection at work? Here’s your challenge for November: schedule a time in your calendar during the work day (between 5 and 10 minutes) and put an “Out of Office” message, then go take a spiritual break. Whether it is the Examen, or some other form of reflective self-care, make the commitment to give a try for the next four weeks.