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How to Focus on the Present and Become More Mindful in 2015

Posted by Louellen Essex on January 8, 2015 in Leadership

While the New Year is a time to set goals and plan ahead, what about staying in the present, focused on the here and now? Mindfulness is a conscious effort to be completely present, setting aside worries, expectations, judgment, and other thoughts and emotions to be fully aware of the current moment. It’s the opposite of automatic functioning, going through routines without thinking or noticing what is going on around you. For leaders, this means giving your full attention to the events occurring now, pushing aside distraction. Here’s how you can put this concept into practice.

Stop multi-tasking.
Research tells us that multi-tasking is a questionable concept and that we frequently overestimate our ability to perform it. What we really do, under the guise of multi-tasking, is switch back and forth between activities, with sub-par performance on each one. When you are mindful, on the other hand, you give your full attention to one thing, increasing the probability that you will do it well. Concentrate on the task at hand, sink into it, complete it, and then go on to the next.

Give your full attention to each conversation.
What if you resolved in 2015 to become absorbed in the ideas of others, completely focused, without judgment, on how they think and what their points of view might mean? That would require catching yourself when you become preoccupied with other thoughts, bringing your attention back into focus on the person before you. It would also entail listening without judgment. Studies reveal that leaders often develop verbal dominance and, over time, listen less and less. Resolve to be mindful of each conversation within which you engage.

Get rid of needless distraction.
Make an inventory of what gets in the way of your concentration. Poor time management and interruption control? Too much attention to technical devices; i.e. continually glancing at them? Doing things that don’t really make a difference or forward your goals, thereby making your to-do list way too long? Clear the deck of obstacles that turn your attention away from the present moment.

Take time to be alone and reflect.
Central to mindfulness is clearing your mind, breathing, and tuning in to the here and now. Currently, a popular type of vacation is the unplugged, tech-free retreat to help busy professionals remember what it’s like to be alone with themselves, taking time to think, reflect, or even meditate. Each day, give yourself a mini-vacation by allowing a few minutes to simply sit still, clear your mind, and relax. Discover what new insights you might gain.

Let 2015 be your year of being fully present in each interaction you encounter. Most likely you will find your relationships improve, your productivity increases, and your stress is significantly reduced.

The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing. John Kabat-Zinn, Professor of Medicine Emeritus University of Massachusetts Medical School

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In these times of rapid change, leaders can never stop learning.”

Dr. Louellen Essex