Has anybody ever introduced themselves to you but you totally blank on their name as they’re saying it? Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this! I’m pretty sure it’s happened to all of us, and if this isn’t proof that we aren’t always present in the moment, I don’t know what is.
As our lives get busier and technologies continue to grow, our attention spans decrease. None of what I’m saying to you right now is news, I’m aware of that, but I wanted to write this post just as a friendly reminder to be more present in your life, and if not for yourself, do it for those around you. Here’s how.
Put down your phone.
Actually, putting down your phone is just the start. Put away your laptop, your iPad, your Apple Watch, the TV remote, your Kindle, or whatever other piece of technology that is in the vicinity that can grab your attention.
Yes, there is a time and a place for technology, and we all know the joy and benefits we can get from it, but when it comes to being present, nothing takes you away from the moment like technology does.
When I was growing up, we all sat around the dinner table as a family every night, and to this day it is one of my favorite memories of my upbringing. Phones weren’t chiming, email notifications weren’t coming through, and we could all truly connect with one another. My dad would ask how my day was. My mom would follow up on some funny story I told her about that happened with my friends. My baby brother would just sit there looking cute, giggling at us (I know this because I was always tuned in during these moments). We had real conversations. Real laughs. Real emotions.
These days, if you look around a restaurant, or your own kitchen table, it’s rare that a phone isn’t either being used, or sitting on a table as if a person is anticipating a distraction from it at any moment. Wouldn’t it be nice if instead we saw families engaging and friends making memories, and not just for the sake of an Instagram “like?”
Of course, dining isn’t the only scenario that technology can be a distraction, it can happen in almost any scenario. I challenge you, for one week, to be mindful of when you’re using technology intentionally, and when you’re using it out of boredom, or simply because it’s there. See what types of patterns you can identify and what habits you can start to break.
Engage in a given activity.
If you’re really proactive about putting the technology down for a period of time, you’ll notice that there is actually a lot going on around you, even if you’re stuck at home.
For example, many of you took on the unexpected responsibility of homeschooling your kids this year (can we all just give a major shout out to our school teachers while we’re thinking about it!), and it may have worn on your patience. It can be so easy to set your kids up with their Zoom lessons while you get other stuff done around the house. While that behavior is certainly understandable, what if just once you stayed and took in the lesson yourself. Not only will you potentially learn something new, but by being present in that moment, you may learn something you didn’t know about your child as well. Something you may have never gotten a chance to see otherwise.
Take the homeschooling example and apply it to all aspects of your life. Sure, there will be times when you won’t be able to participate in something, but say “yes” to engaging in the moment as much as possible. It’s moments like these that create lasting memories.
I mean actually listen. My worst habit that I often catch myself doing is while another person is talking, instead of focusing on the subject matter at hand, I’m thinking of something I can say to contribute to the conversation, or a relevant experience I have personally had that I can throw in. I know I’m not the only one who does this.
What saddens me about this situation is that I’m often robbing myself of an enriching conversation, because I’m focused on myself. By not actively listening, you’re doing yourself and the others involved in the conversation a major disservice.
If you find yourself passively listening often in your life, practice being mindful of this habit and try to get rid of it. It will take practice, but you’ll get much richer experiences because of it.
Have somebody call you out when you’re getting distracted.
To help you become more self aware and present in the moment, assign an accountability partner who will call you out when you get distracted from being present. This can be a significant other, best friend, parent, child...you name it. Make sure it’s somebody you’re around frequently and who isn’t afraid to be honest with you. Feel the need to check social media in the middle of a conversation? Time to call you out! Have a blank stare on your face when the conversation becomes less interesting to you? Time to call you out!
By becoming aware of the circumstances that distract you, it can help you eliminate them and be more present in the moment.
Set clear work-from-home boundaries.
This is a big one, especially considering so much of the office-based workforce is now working remotely in some capacity. Set a clear space for where you work and a clear space for where you have your personal life and try very hard to keep them separate. That way, you’re 100% focused on what you need to be doing in those separate spaces and your distractions will be limited.
Become a master single-tasker.
Have you ever been proud of yourself for your stellar capability to multi-task? Just this morning I made breakfast, while doing lunges, with the news on in the background, and while checking emails on my phone. High-five to me! But here’s the thing, while I could tell you what emails I was paying attention to, I couldn’t tell you what news was being shown on the TV or what I ate for breakfast, and I definitely am not feeling the burn on my legs as much as I would have if I gave it my full attention (just sink a little deeper, you’ve got this!).
I’m a mom, we invented multi-tasking, but if you spread your attention out across multiple things at one time, it’s actually to your detriment in the long run, even if it feels like success in the moment. Multitasking reduces efficiency and is distracting by nature. When you want to be present in the moment, make single-tasking your priority.
To be more present to those around you, it often comes down to freeing up time and ensuring your ducks are in a row so that you’re not easily distracted. Luckily there’s an app, LifeStarr, that can help you with this. The beauty of the LifeStarr system is that it allows you to walk away from your technology knowing that when you come back to it, all of your tasks, messages, requests, and to-dos are there waiting for you, and are organized automatically. You don’t have to worry about anything slipping through the cracks or that you’re missing anything important because everything you’re looking for is right there in the platform.
LifeStarr truly does help you spend less time organizing and spend more time living, so that you can be present in the moment and focus on what truly matters. Sign up for your free account (yes, it will always be free), by clicking the button below.