In a world filled with constant distractions it can be hard to be present in the moment for important meetings or conversations. Push notifications from your phone alert you. A co-worker interrupts you. All the things you have to do are nagging at you. If you’re paying attention to every distraction, you’re probably not being present in the moment.
Giving into the constant distractions becomes a nasty habit. It’s even a crutch for some. The buzz of your phone with news, the urgency of your co-workers request, it can be invigorating. Learning how to ignore nearly everything so that you are focusing your attention solely on being in the moment of an important conversation is hard. Being present may not feel as energizing as being the go to person in an “emergency” but over the long-term it is more sustainable for yourself and your relationships.
So, what can you do about it? Here are 5 tips for things you can do to be more present in conversations or meetings.
- Brain Dump
I often write down what is on my mind. Sometimes I will write a list in a meeting just so I can stop focusing my thoughts on random ideas. Other times I will free write to release whatever thoughts I am holding onto. I usually will do that in privacy, so I might write by myself before an important conversation just to clear my head. There’s just something cathartic about writing ideas down that allows me to be more present in the moment. The next time your mind feels too full to be present in the moment, just write down what you’re thinking.
The other month, I started working on my visual note taking skills. Disclaimer, I am not a talented artist, we are talking stick figures here. I was sitting in a particularly…boring meeting a few weeks back and I decided to practice my visual note taking. Normally in a meeting like this I would have checked out. But I was shocked to realize that by taking visual notes, I was better focused in the present moment. Doodling might have a bad rap, but if it helps you stay focused in the present moment at a meeting, then do it!
Focusing on my breath really comes in handy when I have experienced something that has triggered me. Last fall I was recognized in an awards ceremony and for some crazy reason the experience triggered all of these negative and hurtful feelings from my childhood. My gremlin kicked it into high gear and my heart was pounding. I was far away from being present, like 25 years in the past. So I just sat there and counted as I breathed deeply in and out, in and out. As my nerves calmed down I was able to come back to the present moment and enjoy the celebration.
- Hit Pause
Sometimes you just need to take a timeout. It is embarrassing to admit, but most people understand if you own up to the fact that you were not being present in a conversation. You might need to pause the conversation for a brief time as you process through the distraction. There is no such thing as multi-tasking. It is much better to hit pause and give yourself break than to pretend you are paying attention to what someone else is saying while reading a text.
- Ask Yourself
One of the things I will ask myself when I need to hit pause is, What am I thinking? How am I feeling? The other week I was participating in a webinar and I got really frustrated as I experienced technology problems. I had a lot on my mind; I was overwhelmed. I was also mad and annoyed. I felt stuck, weighed down by everything. So I hit pause and wrote at the top of a piece of paper, “What am I thinking? How am I feeling?” As I finished processing my thoughts and feelings, the technology issues were resolved and I was able to be present again for the webinar.
Unless you are planning to lock yourself in a cabin in the woods, there will always be distractions. Things often happen that can cause your mind to wander so that you are not being present in the moment. Being distracted in conversations or meetings negatively effects your relationships, no one likes it when you pretend to listen, in fact it causes a release of cortisol in their brain.
Experiment with just one or all five of these tips the next time you are having an important meeting or conversation and observe the difference it makes. Share your own tips and experiences with being more present during important conversations and meetings below.