Why being present is a crucial business skill

Employee asleep at his desk

Being present and focused takes willpower, but achieve it and you’ll be amazed at all the tasks you’ll be able to tick off your business to-do list.

Here is something interesting about me: I used to be a competitive ballroom dancer. It’s such an exciting and deliciously consuming sport to be involved in. I used to compete at a fairly high level, and it meant that I had a variety of coaches. My parents and my partner and generally, those not in the dancing world, didn’t understand why I needed so many different coaches every week who pretty much all taught me the same thing. The lesson here doesn’t only apply to dance lessons. Sometimes, you can have three different people tell you the same thing, in their different ways, and still not have the penny drop. But you might get to the fourth person and the way that they tell you might just drop the penny so hard that when it hits the ground it splits in two.

This is why I’m a huge fan of putting a message across, multiple times, in different ways. My last article talked about focus, and how it can help you be more productive and achieve more in your day. Now, I’m going to introduce you to a different concept around being focused. It’s called being present.

No, this does not mean that I am going to wrap you up in a pretty package and top it off with a bow. But it does mean that I’m going to talk to you about being present and aware of not only yourself or others, but the tasks that you are doing too.

Case study from the 1950′s (more like 2012, or at least my house…) #1:

Man and wife are at home after a long day at work. Wife has the kids at the table ready for dinner but where is hubby? On the couch, watching telly. The conversation goes something like this…

Wife: Dinner is on the table!

Hubby: [no response]

Wife (5 minutes later): Hun, can you come to the table please?

Hubby: [no response]

Wife [now standing in front of TV switching it off]: Hey, DINNER IS ON THE TABLE!

Hubby: Gosh I can’t have 5 minutes peace?! I work all day, I never get a break, etc etc…

[insert fight here]

Does that sound familiar? Surely it can’t just be my house.

Case study #2:

Wife is completely indulged in the latest Twilight book. Nothing can pull her away from this book. She reads it before bed, in the morning over breakfast, while she is brushing her teeth, walking to the train station, on the train and then to work. Then on the way home, she just cannot put this damn book down. Hubby is fed up, he cannot get ANY attention and just needs to talk about work for a minute. Even when she pretends to be listening he knows she isn’t…

Again, surely this can’t only be my house?!

My point is…

You can’t achieve anything without being present. And by this I mean being in the room, in the space, actively listening and taking information in. I am picking on my household today purely because it is a classic example of what everyone struggles with on a daily basis. When I had this chat with my fella about being present in conversations that we are having instead of trying to also watch the TV or play the computer, he said okay, I’ll come to the party. The next time I tried to talk to him and he was in the lounge room he actually turned off the telly and looked at me – that’s when you can have conversation and know when it’s getting through. That’s also when I vowed never to read Twilight ever again.

This whole concept and process doesn’t only make households easier to live in. It applies to everything, When you are working, if you aren’t focused – present – you have no chance of achieving anything off that growing to-do list (please tell me you are making to do lists now?!).

One of my instructions last week was to pick ONE thing of your to do list and do it. No distractions, no procrastination and definitely no day dreaming. I’m wondering how you went with this task?

Ok so it’s all very well to say be focused and present but how do you do this.

Honestly, you need to dig deep. You need to build a mighty fine willpower muscle, and then flex that baby until you’re feeling slightly lop sided.

For example, if you’re in a business meeting, focus on the conversation that’s happening around you. Listen to what people have to say and process it. Don’t sit there, eyes glazed, and fade in and out of the conversation only to have a colleague ask you a question that you embarrassingly can’t answer. Take notes if that’s going to help you stay on track and not dreaming of something else.

If you are working on a document at your desk do yourself a favour – turn your phone and iPad on silent, close your Facebook and Twitter windows, and most importantly, close your email account. I can’t stress this enough. People (your employees!) waste hours a day just by constantly flicking back to their emails every five minutes to see if anything new has come through. Not to mention it takes approximately 15 – 20 minutes for the mind to refocus on the original task at hand after flicking through emails. Remove the distraction, be completely focused and present with your task and get it done.

Just imagine what you could achieve, and how much productivity would increase, if you could be ‘present’ with your tasks every day? Time for new goal setting, I think.

  • http://www.wordconstructions.com.au/blog Tash Hughes

    It’s very true that we don’t always hear a message until it is said just the right way or at the right time. I remember back at school one enlightened teacher let us talk in class because she saw we could explain the concepts in a way our classmates understood when she couldn’t get them to understand it.

    I had never thought about it for multiple coaches though (including ballroom as I also did some competitive dancing :) ) Although I do see an advantage for a business owner to possibly have a few coaches (communications and marketing perhaps alongside a business coach or an industry-specific mentor) to cover different areas.

    Being present – great approach, not always simple to do. I’m guilty of thinking business when with my kids, for example, as much as I swear not to!