Before I got serious about simplicity, I was seriously scattered. I checked my email while eating lunch and driving to appointments that I wasn’t completely prepared for. I thought I was the queen of multi-tasking. And worst of all, I was rarely fully present during conversations with people I cared about.
I wanted to pay attention, but there were so many things on my mind. I was distracted. Now that I’m usually on the other side of that, I realize that this wasn’t just my problem. Between digital distractions, busy schedules, long to-do lists, and a general feeling of overwhelm, most of us struggle to pay attention.
As I strive to be more present for others, I become more and more clear about what I want and need out of life, relationships, and work too.
How to be present and clear
If you want to break up with your busy mind, buzzing phone, and crazy to-do lists to engage in meaningful relationships, try incorporating one of the following ideas.
Agreeing to have coffee with a friend when you are on deadline for a work project won’t allow you to be fully present. Carve out time when you know you can be most present. Clear the decks and show up.
Make time in between.
Jumping from task to task or conversation to conversation doesn’t leave you room to process, so you process during the next task or conversation. To be more present, make time in between. Go for a walk, do a quiet meditation, draw or do something else to process the last thing and to get ready for the next.
One at a time.
If you want to be present when you are working on a computer or other digital device, close the things you aren’t working on. For instance, if you show up to listen to a webinar, close your email. If you are responding to email, close Facebook. Just because your computer can accommodate unlimited sites and applications doesn’t mean that contributes to good work. Try doing one thing at a time on the computer and in other areas of your life.
Disconnect to fully connect during meals or other times that are meant for human connection. Agree to put the digital devices aside. Try turning them all the way off, so you aren’t waiting for a reminder of new email, or other digital distractions. If you must stay connected for emergency purposes, let people know upfront.
More soul, less show.
The first step in being present, is being you. All you. Leave everything that gets in the way of that at home. In this short article, Jonathan Fields says, “show is soul’s cover-up.” Focus on more soul and less show in what you create, what you share, and how you show up. All you.
When I think an idea or thought pattern has a tight hold on me, I always discover that I am the one holding on too tightly. Write it down, let go, and be present. The best ideas will wait for you.
It’s the simplest, yet most powerful technique of all. When you are overwhelmed, and feeling scattered, take a deep breath in through your nose, and let it all out through your mouth. With the breath, let out the mental chatter, the show, the overwhelm. Repeat until you are ready to be present.
I still get distracted and tune out unintentionally, because I am human, but I strive to be more present and clear. I want to show up, really show up (without the show) in my personal relationships and work. Not so I can change the world, or even to fix a small problem, but just to be there for people and let them know that they matter in my life and in their life.
They matter. You matter.