by Laura Berman: I don’t know about you, but when I was in grade school, you answered your teacher’s ubiquitous roll call with “present.” As I got older, we were allowed to say “here” to confirm our presence in the room. Now, no one asks us anymore, but maybe they should.Being present, being fully focused and attentive to the moment or the task at hand, is a skill in itself and one that is becoming harder to come by. The parent at the park talking on their cell phone while pushing their kid on a swing, the driver who bumps the car in front of him while juggling a cup of coffee and a text message, the executive who is standing up greeting their next visitor before they’ve even let you know your meeting with them is over. In a world that does too much, it is really hard to be present. We are merely really good at pretending we are not absent.
Do you sometimes feel like you didn’t accomplish anything all day although you were busy at every moment? Do you lack the closeness to your spouse, your kids or other loved ones that you desire? Do you find yourself irritable and hostile for no immediate reason? These could
all be indications of being absent, or at least, not as present as you could be.
If you’re absent, you’re not “here” or “there.” Your body might be there, you may see yourself and hear yourself, but you are somewhere else. You are not feeling, not experiencing, not absorbing what there is to absorb from that moment. Being present, on the other hand, means you are paying attention and experiencing all the nuances of the moment. Those nuances may be your own emotions or the satisfaction that comes from listening fully, learning from every
experience and surrendering to the unexpected.
Does it matter? If you don’t think about what you are missing, it doesn’t. But if you care that life might be passing you by a bit too fast, get “present” to the following tips for being “here.”
Take a deep breath. Filling your lungs with air before settling down to a task, conversation or activity can help to slow you down enough to be present. Several deep breaths in a row can help you quiet your mind as well.
Know the signals. Recognize when you are spinning out of attention and do what you have to do to focus again.
Avoid triggers. Once you recognize when you are not present, start observing what are the things that are the cause of your lack of attentiveness and nip the source of those problems in the bud.
Finish each task or communication. When you are thorough and finish one thing before you move on to the next, you can be fully attentive to the new task or conversation. If you find yourself distracted or into something new before finishing the old, stop, write down what needs to be done or said and get it out of your mind so you can be present to what you are currently doing.
Purge often. Make it a habit to throw things out as you are finished with them. Sticky notes, lists, old mail, clothes that are outdated — anything that you are not using needs to be disposed of so you are not annoyed or distracted by clutter.
Delegate–One great way to be able to feel present is to get some things off your plate through delegation. Create templates for how you want things done and have someone else do them whether at the office or at home. Do tasks that only you can do and set up a follow-up system so you are never distracted by too many tasks again.
Find your transition. Come to know how you best make transitions from one thing to the next. Do you need to debrief? Take a breath? Make some notes? Celebrate one thing before moving to the next? Figure out what would allow you to move from thing to thing with ease, and do it.
If you have kids, you’ve learned this or need to. Being a working mom who transitions from one role to the other several times a day, I am especially aware of presencing myself. I will not enter an interaction with one of my children if business is still plaguing my mind. I make note of an incomplete business task, take a deep breath and focus fully on my child. That way, I avoid taking out any stress or frustration on my kids. I learned early on that if I pretended to pay attention to my kid when I was carrying a business concern in my mind, I would become irritated with the little person and was sending a message that I did not really want to be with them.
In our mulit-tasking world, we can fool ourselves by being proud of all we can get done. However, you have to ask yourself what the goal is. Is it to get things done or to do things that matter?
Be “present” to that choice. We all want you “here.”
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