It’s Monday Morning…and you are halfway through your 9AM meeting and your mind starts to wander. You begin thinking about all of your To Do’s, a whole list of calls that still need to be made, even details left undone that you may have missed from the prior week’s work and you begin to feel a great sense of anxiety build within you! Sound familiar? You are not alone. The feeling that you have too much to do and not enough time to do everything is common for so many busy professionals. However, what we forget when we become overwhelmed is that one of the key aspects of remaining productive in meetings is staying present. What I mean is that if you are always thinking about the past or the future, you are not really present to the individuals or the work right in front of you or around you. Being present is more about listening well in the moment and fighting the temptation to dwell on the past or obsess about the future. When you are present, you stay actively engaged and allow the present moment to help you accomplish the goal immediately in front of you. The question then becomes, how do I stay present when I have so much on my mind? Here are a few tips.
Turn off the technology – Turning off your IPhone, blackberry, or whatever your preferred mode of communication during meetings can help you stay focused and present. Even when your phone is silenced, you may feel this small vibration that is beckoning you to check out, or reminding you that someone or something wants your attention. Turn it off and find your mind rest a bit easier. One hour with your phone off is not going to hurt anyone. Plus, you typically can’t respond during the middle of a meeting anyway so turn it back on when you are done. This is a great cure for finding some quiet and focused mental time in a meeting.
Write it down and refocus – Instead of resisting all of the tasks pummeling your brain for action during a meeting, keep a piece of paper out and call it “Out of my mind notes” so when you think of something you must do, you can quickly write it down and refocus. Often, people are fighting so hard to focus, they end up taking so much time resisting their own thoughts that they defeat the very purpose of their attempt to pay attention. Write it down and let it go. When a thought comes, right it down and you will allow your mind to rest.
People first –Next time you are in a meeting and your mind starts going crazy with thoughts, just smile and remind yourself of the principle I call People First. People First is the idea that when tempted by worries about the past or the future, focus on the human beings who require your full attention in this very present moment. If you are so caught up in your own mind, you may miss the colleague sitting next to you who has offered a brilliant idea because you are so busy thinking about all that you have to do. It’s hard to obsess about To Do lists when you look people in the eyes and really listen to what they are saying instead of listening only to what your brain is telling you to think about. With People First, remind yourself what’s really important – meaningful connections to the world around you. Last I checked, great ideas may have come from thoughts, but human beings are the ones that actually made them become reality. Live in the present moment and focus on the people around you. It makes meetings better, your time more productive, and puts your To Do list in proper perspective.
What are other techniques that allow you to remain present and focused?