All of us carry baggage from the past and are preoccupied with the future, which distracts us from the present moment. Many of our problems stem from this preoccupation, which causes low productivity, more stress, and less energy. It also substantially diminishes our capacity to understand, decide, recall and memorise, and also inhibits our ideas and creativity.
Studies show that people who multi-task are less effective at their work, as compared to those who focus on one task at a time. Attention requires mental and physical energy that your body can create only in limited amounts. Focussing on anything consumes a considerable amount of glucose from your body and brain. This means distractions take a mental and physical toll on us.
Research also indicates that distractions take up almost two hours a day for most employees, most of whom only spend 11 minutes working on a project before they become distracted by something else, after which it takes them 25 minutes to refocus. So, in addition to affecting you at a personal level, distractions also have an adverse impact on your daily business targets.
Why do we get distracted?
Why do we get distracted so easily? Well, aside from distractions created by others, most of us become distracted by thinking about the past, the future… any time but the present. You have a limited amount of energy, especially for tasks that are not uplifting or relevant. Therefore, whenever you engage in less important tasks, you deplete your energy.
When you are in the present moment, you’re able to powerfully engage with those around you. Being alert and aware of the present moment, besides enhancing your productivity, also functions as an excellent tool for gleaning critical insights from your environment, and this helps you to make well thought out decisions at work.
For example, when you meet with your team, you can have two different types of meetings. One is where you are alert and open to both the verbal and non-verbal cues of your team, which helps you gather critical information to decide the next course of action. The second is where you have already made up your mind, and the meeting is held merely to manipulate others to accept your point of view; hence, you receive no valuable feedback from team members, which leads to sub-par performance.
How to come back to the present
During the course of your work it’s easy to miss the present moment and get overwhelmed with the demands of the day. Here are a few simple exercises that can help you regain your present-moment awareness. Use them at every opportunity.
1. Every hour, stop and ask: Am I really present in this moment? If not, what are my thoughts focussed on? Doing this often will help you return to the present moment.
You may wonder how to practise this if you are already doing an activity that is very engaging. Taking a moment to reflect on these questions will help you assess if you are really present and focussed on the priority task—which is good—or if you are focussed on a less important task.
2. Spend a few minutes each day with Nature; it will calm you. Watch a tree’s leaves move when the wind blows, reflecting non-resistance. While looking at the ocean, see the abundance, neutrality and oneness of the Universe. Nature has many messages for us and this practice will help separate your good thoughts from the cluttered ones. Spending some quiet time alone each day is essential to your inner wellbeing.
3. When in the moment, look at difficulties you have and ask: “What can I learn from this problem?” How is this problem affecting you in the larger scheme of things? Think about one thing you can do to minimise the problem and act upon it right away.
Why this approach? Because, it takes you away from worrying about the problem, which is pointless. Instead, you can view the problem from a distance and the objectivity will help you act on the problem. This will minimise the mental energy you invest in it and also offer a realistic perspective on the situation.
4. Ask yourself: “What can I do in the present moment to create a positive impact?
5. Say thank you a few times in a day for all the good things in your life. As you count your blessings, they multiply.
6. When driving, observe your surroundings, listen to music or an educational audio to stay in the present moment and avoid fretting about the serpentine traffic.
7. Forgive someone in the present moment by giving them the benefit of the doubt. This is liberating! Start with small things, such as when someone does not thank you for a favour you did, or when someone fails to apologise when they accidentally push you. As you get good at this, you will realise how much negative energy you stave off. This will help you forgive bigger transgressions, such as pardoning someone for taking away some of your business or cheating you on an investment deal.
8. Think of someone you care about and send loving thoughts in the present moment.
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