by Josh Millar
Sometimes, it can feel like our days are pushing us further and further away from being fully present. Many people live in a chronically busy state, and the average person likely has a lengthy to-do list when thinking about work, family, social, and personal commitments. We’re often so focused on future goals and past numbers that the present doesn’t get much of our attention. Unfortunately, this can lead to stress, burnout, and lower levels of happiness more generally. Need a bit more motivation to stay in the present? Here are some key benefits of slowing down and being more mindful:
Work More Efficiently
Our thoughts are often one of our major sources of distraction. It’s so easy to get caught up reflecting on past events or planning for future ones. When we’re doing this while also trying to work on whatever is in front of us, it can significantly slow down our efficiency. An effort to be more present includes paying attention to these kinds of thoughts. It’s not that we’re aiming to get rid of them altogether; sometimes they’re a key aspect of what we’re focusing on. Presence helps us to pay more attention to our thoughts. When you’re intentionally looking to the future to set a goal or plan for a project, that’s great. But when those thoughts are pulling you out of something you’re trying to focus on now, you’ll have a greater awareness of them, and it will be easier to bring your attention back to where you are.
Often, the past- and future-oriented thoughts we get caught up in can be stress inducing. We obsess over a past mistake or worry about a future failure. This kind of negative thinking pulls us from the present moment, lowers or motivation, and increases stress. The average workday is challenging enough without bringing in all these additional stressors. When you start to feel stress levels rising, try focusing on your current reality. What’s around you, how does your physical body feel, and where do you want to be focusing your attention? This can help you stay in control of your stress.
Make Stronger Connections
We’ve all had a meeting with someone who was physically present but mentally seemed to be elsewhere. Maybe we’ve even been that person ourselves at times. Whether it’s only partly listening to what the other person is saying or occasionally glancing at your phone during a conversation, these things can have a significant impact on the connection you’re able to make. When you make the effort to be completely present in your conversations, you’ll gain more value from them, and you’ll make the people you talk with feel heard and appreciated.
Take Control of Your Time
I read about a great strategy for thinking about how we can be more present in the way we spend our time. Rather than racing through your day going from task to task, how can we be more present in our workflow, especially when we have competing priorities? A great way to bring some presence into your planning is to frame it as, ‘I’m saying no to this so I can do this’. It might be a positive motivation to stay focused: “I’m saying no to going on social media so that I can efficiently complete this project”; or maybe it brings you some clarity: “I’m saying no to dinner with my family so that I can stay late at the office again”. If the statement you make doesn’t feel right to you, you have the opportunity to make a change.
Take just ten to twenty seconds right now to bring your attention to where you’re at. Maybe you take a few deep breaths, look around you, stand up and stretch, and notice where your thoughts have been. Regularly bringing your attention back to the present in this way can be a great tool for professionals to increase focus and productivity while decreasing stress and unhealthy habits. What are your thoughts on staying present throughout your day? Please share them with us.