Show Up for Business: 4 Ways to Stay Present

I like to tell people that I’m a great multitasker.

But what does being a great multitasker really get you? When you’re multitasking, you can’t focus on any one task at hand. This is my natural way of being. I constantly catch myself 90 percent focused on the person or task at hand, rather than 100 percent.

Trusted colleagues would gently but firmly inform me that I was not entirely present. It took some time (and humility) to admit that I did have this issue, and I needed to work on it. It’s taken years, and it’s an ongoing process, but I’ve trained myself to be more focused on what I’m doing by being more present in the small moments of my daily life.

This hasn’t exactly been easy or natural; I have a significant role in multiple companies, which means there are always multiple tasks to focus on. We are all busier than we’ve ever been before. We are all constantly bombarded with notifications. Our emails are blinging and our phones are ringing. But emails are a great way to feel productive in the moment and feel like you wasted your day at the end of it. When we learn to be more present in everything we do, everything and everyone around us benefits.

This wasn’t easy, but I notice a difference in my mood and my quality of work when I force myself to remain present.

Here are four ways I make sure to stay present:

  1. Ask for feedback. I’ve asked people in my life to inform me when they catch me not being present with them, which helps keep me accountable to my goal. I also have a trusted inner network of peers. Being present, in many ways, means dealing with the situation at hand with the information you have. This means that I need to gut check decisions with others. This way, when I’m making a decision, it’s more than just my personal opinion — it’s truly the best decision for the group. Creating this feedback for myself has forced me to focus on what is the best decision for the moment, with the information that I have.

  2. Create boundaries. It’s important to me to respond quickly to others. I established a 24-hour turnaround time for emails early in my career. At times, this expectation has become my worst enemy. Because people expect to hear from me so quickly, they are often relentless in getting a hold of me. If I don’t respond via email, they text me, call me, or call my assistant. Truly, people can be very creative when they want to get in touch. I’ve had to re-train myself in establishing the boundaries I’m comfortable with keeping. Communication is key here. I have let everyone know my updated expectations, and I literally put my phone in another room when I need to get work done so I’m not distracted by the notifications. When I receive an email after-hours, I force myself to focus on my family and not respond. Slowly, people are starting to understand my new boundaries.

  3. Stay organized. Life has gotten so chaotic for all of us — it’s all the more reason to stay present. Emails are a great way for us to feel productive when we’re really just busy. I’ve had to learn how to compartmentalize different areas of my life. I create space in my day for emails and texts; I also create space in my day for family, for meetings, and for eating. Because I’ve scheduled them ahead of time, I can dedicate my full attention to it when in the moment. Having the time on my calendar for different areas allows me to focus in when I am working on that task. This relieves (some) of the anxiety, or at least the expectation, of doing all of the things at once. I know that I’ll have time for emails, just as I know I’ll have time for the strategy meeting, but they are both slotted on my calendar. Finding a method of organization that works for me has been crucial to my sanity.

  4. Take your time. It’s okay to take a step back and recognize where you need to improve and what you need to focus on. Take a breath. You can be physically present and not mentally there at all. I should know. I’m constantly thinking about the next thing. It’s how I’m wired. Honestly, I think it’s how a lot of us are wired in this society. We’re trained to constantly think about the next thing. I’d encourage you to take a breather, take your time, and take a step back.

Being present in business is about more than just relishing your life with gratitude (which is important and an added benefit). You are literally more productive when you become more present. When we remove expectations — of ourselves and of others — to constantly be doing a million things, we allow ourselves to dig deep into the task at hand. This benefits everyone at your company.

If you want to go far, go deep first.

And that starts with you.