I feel like I am sliding into home plate as I settled into my chair. The meeting has already begun. I am rushing from my last meeting with barely time to take a bio break. I need a moment to switch gears, to get my thoughts prepared for the conversation for which I am physically present but not quite “in the room” yet.
Once I catch my breath, and I engage in the conversation, I notice that my mind is wandering. Random thoughts are running through my head. Did I remember to mail the mortgage payment? What time am I supposed to be at the event this evening? I feel the urge to reach for my cell phone. I’m finding I’m distracted by these thoughts and lose track of the conversation.
Please tell me I’m not the only working adult to whom this happens. Or perhaps, you are indeed like me and it happens on far too regular a basis. I suspect that I am not alone, as evidenced by not only my own experience, but also those of my colleagues and clients. Turns out that I’m not alone, at least according to researchers from Harvard. In a study they found that 47% of the time the study participants were thinking about something other than what they were doing.
As this has happened with more frequency of late, it made me think about how I am showing up in my work and life. I want to be really present with my clients and colleagues. I want to be fully focused and engaged in the work I’m doing. I want to be fully attentive and listening to the conversations in which I’m engaged.
A Mindful Minute
I began to realize that I needed to begin to create space in my day so that I can be fully present. Your world may function as mine does on a standard one-hour meeting. Perhaps we should learn from the world of mental health professionals who have 50-minute sessions. Just think how nice that would be to have a few minutes to move from one meeting to the next, mindfully gathering our thoughts before we enter the meeting.
Rather than trying to change the world to 50 or 55-minute meetings, try creating practice of a mindful minute at the start of the meeting. Each person sits comfortably, closes their eyes and sets an intention for the time you are together. Whenever I try this, either with colleagues or clients, I’m always excited about the positive comments and thank yous that are given. We are all more productive and present.
Mind the Monkeys
For many years now I’ve had a meditation practice. I think of my meditation practice as focus training for my brain. When I’m meditating the ‘monkey mind’ is busy at work. This is a Buddhist term for how our minds seem like a pack of monkeys running around unsettled and restless, distracting us. In meditation, the idea is to use an object of attention (our breath, a sound) to focus our mind and to bring our mind back from the distracting thought. This practice helps me with noticing when my mind is wandering and bring my focus back to the object of attention. It is indeed a practice. Since I find that throughout the day, as my mind wanders from the present moment, I gently return to the meeting, conversation or task at hand. Even a few minutes a day of this training for your brain, can help you notice how often your mind is wandering and with out beating your self up, redirect your focus to the task at hand.
As leaders, managers, parents, we have a lot of demands on our time. The only way we can have meaningful relationships is to be fully present in the moment. What can you do to be present for your colleagues and family?