Scanning his inbox, Jeff noticed a message about the afternoon meeting. He began reading, but his sister's voice intruded, startling him. "Jeff, are you there? Jeff?" He'd done it again. Reading his email while talking to his sister on the phone, he'd lost track of their conversation, and he'd been sucked into his computer.
"Yes, I'm here," he said, "What were you saying?"
"Jeff. I don't appreciate that. Call me back when you have time to talk." Click.
Jeff hung up the phone, feeling deep regret. He'd just spent almost ten minutes talking with his sister, and he could only vaguely recall what they'd talked about.
Trying to divide his attention, he had failed, hurting both his sister and himself. But even when we don't hurt anyone else, when we divide our attention we cheapen our experience of life.
And sometimes we're not even aware we're doing it. When walking outdoors, we often focus on the near and familiar, and never notice the distant beauty of a hawk wheeling right above us. At home, sorting the junk mail and the bills, we smile distractedly at a child — maybe our own child — who's just presented us with a work of crayon art. And these are relatively harmless examples. Sometimes it hurts much more.
We do know how
to appreciate the moment,
but we're less skilled at
choosing to do soWe all know how to focus on right here, right now. Recall the time you scored the winning point in a game — or the time you didn't. Or think of the moment of your marriage (or divorce), or the first sight or sound of your own child. You remember these moments with clarity, because you were fully present.
Although we know how to appreciate the moment, many of us are less skilled at choosing to do so. Fortunately, we can learn. Here are some tips for appreciating the moment.
- Acknowledge distractions
- To put a distraction aside, first acknowledge it. Is it a worry? A fear? A pain? Promise yourself to attend to it later, at a particular time. Do whatever you must do to put it aside temporarily.
- Notice your breathing
- Whatever the moment, you're in it. Appreciating the moment begins with appreciating yourself. And appreciating yourself begins with your own breathing.
- Relax from the bottom up
- Notice your body. Starting with your feet (your foundation) relax it all, working upwards. Finish with your mind.
- Hear what you're hearing
- Choose what to listen to. Tune in to what you want to be with right now. A child's giggle. A loved one's voice.
- See what you're seeing
- Choose what to look at. Focus on what you want to keep as the visual memory of this moment, a treasure to remember always.
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- First Aid for Painful Meetings
- The foundation of any team meeting is its agenda. A crisply focused agenda can make the difference between
a long, painful affair and finishing early. If you're the meeting organizer, develop and manage the
agenda for maximum effectiveness.
- Discussus Interruptus
- You're chairing a meeting, and to your dismay, things get out of hand. People interrupt each other so
often that nobody can complete a thought, and some people dominate the meeting. What can you do?
- Recalcitrant Collaborators
- Much of the work we do happens outside the context of a team. We collaborate with people in other departments,
other divisions, and other companies. When these collaborators are reluctant, resistive, or recalcitrant,
what can we do?
- Assumptions and the Johari Window: II
- The roots of both creative and destructive conflict can often be traced to the differing assumptions
of the parties to the conflict. Here's Part II of an essay on surfacing these differences using a tool
called the Johari window.
- Healthy Practices
- Some organizational cultures are healthy; some aren't. How can you tell whether your organizational
culture is healthy? Here are some indicators.
See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming June 3: Capability Inversions and the Dunning-Kruger Effect
- A capability inversion occurs when the person in charge of an effort is far less knowledgeable about the work involved or its purpose than are the people doing that work. In capability inversions, the Dunning-Kruger effect can intensify group dysfunction, sometimes severely disrupting the effort. Available here and by RSS on June 3.
- And on June 10: They Don't Reply to My Email
- Ever have the experience of sending an email message to someone, asking for information or approval or whatever, and then waiting for a response that comes only too late? Maybe your correspondent is an evil loser, but maybe not. Maybe the problem is in your message. Available here and by RSS on June 10.
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- Bullet Points: Mastery or Madness?
Decision-makers in modern organizations commonly demand briefings in the form of bullet points or a series of series of bullet points. But this form of presentation has limited value for complex decisions. We need something more. We actually need to think. Briefers who combine the bullet-point format with a variety of persuasion techniques can mislead decision-makers, guiding them into making poor decisions. Read more about this program.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.