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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See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
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- Some cognitive biases can cause people in collaborations to have inaccurate understandings of what each other is doing. Confirmation bias and self-serving bias are two examples of cognitive biases that can contribute to disjoint awareness in some situations. Available here and by RSS on January 22.
- And on January 29: Higher-Velocity Problem Definition
- Typical approaches to shortening time-to-market for new products usually involve accelerating problem solving. Accelerating problem definition can also help. Available here and by RSS on January 29.
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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.