Being present is and always has been a challenge for me. As a child, I was a classic case of undiagnosed ADHD, labeled as a learning disability. My mind races at what seems like 100 miles a minute, and I’m always thinking about what’s next. This plagues me in all aspects of life — at home, at work, in meetings, writing emails, reading — and it’s a perpetual cycle that, if not managed, creates a world of pain.
For me, the only way to manage this is mindfulness; calling myself out as it happens and tuning back in, or being vulnerable and having others remind me. My distraction is perceived as rudeness, and perception is reality.
When you add in devices, social media, desktop and Slack notifications, a wife, two kids and the CEO factor, my brain feels like it’s going 500 miles a minute.
I’m not alone in this. Research shows that we are inundated with distractions throughout our day. Workers send and receive an average of 86 work-related emails at work and 25 at home per day. We check our phones 52 times a day. But a study found that reducing workplace distractions makes 75% of employees more productive, 57% report an increase in motivation and 49% are happier at work.
In our company’s new year team meeting, we were talking about personal goals. I publicly shared my goal to be present this year. Here are some ways I define successfully being present that may help you, as well:
• If you are in a meeting that does not require a computer, it’s closed.• If you are brought into a conversation, and you’re free, then you’re actively listening.• If you are at home playing with your kids, put your phone down.• If you are at dinner, don’t check your phone.• If you are listening to an audiobook, don’t scroll through social media.• If you’re at the gym, don’t check your email.
This is where I am starting. The list goes on, but I’m trying to be a realist, and by no means expect to be perfect. Try to be mindful enough that, when you’re not being present, you can pull yourself back and apologize, if necessary. Give your team permission to provide gentle reminders if needed.
Included in this is giving yourself permission to say no more often. If my door is closed, that means you’re focused. If you are set to “away” on Slack, it means people should email you instead. If you cannot be present and you know you’re not in the right state of mind to actively listen or engage, you have the right to say, “not right now.”
If mindfulness were to be framed as a personal OKR (objective and key results), it might look like this:
Objective: I am present and actively engaged in all aspects of life in 2020.
Key result 1: Attend three meetings a week, undistracted, without looking at phone, for the first 90 days of the year.
Key result 2: Spend 30 minutes per night with my kids, undistracted, seven nights per week.
Key result 3: Spend one night per week with my wife for two hours with no cell phone.
While these key results might seem trivial, they are going to be a challenge for me, but an attainable challenge.
Be present in 2020.