Being present

Setting solid boundaries with my time has been a big focus over the past few years. I’ve made significant progress, so it surprised me when my October and November calendars this year were completely overbooked. As I looked at my calendar, I was searching for those pockets of time for creativity or to add in the last-minute meetings that popped up. Much to my surprise, the open slots were not there. I overbooked myself, and there was no room to reschedule so I could be present for other things.

Then it happened…

About six weeks into my eight weeks of overscheduling, one of my clients needed to cancel. It was a sunny day, and I decided to take my dog on a walk. This was a mindful activity that allowed me to clear my head.

Given how overtaxed I was, it was not a surprise that my mind was in several different places during that walk. My mind recognized a free moment and flooded it with competing thoughts. I was thinking about an upcoming workshop I still needed to design and thought of a client who seemed stuck following our last call and how I would get my website redone.

I wasn’t thinking about the giant acorns that fall from the trees this time of year in our neighborhood as it was happening in the present and right in front of me.

Seriously, they are giant!

Take a break and draw your attention to something else

These specific trees line our running/walking trails. They are a complete hazard for runners and walkers. Luckily, I am incredibly blessed because I spotted a runner avoiding some acorns, and it brought my attention to them.

As someone who still can remember the agony of an ankle injury five years ago, I typically pay more attention to known walking hazards. But I wasn’t present. 

I took a break, but I really wasn’t taking a break.

I carried the tasks in my brain as I left my office and walked outside, missing the glorious weather and my goofy dog trying to sniff every bush and tree we came across.

Then I was missing the sun shining on my face and the blue sky with puffy white clouds.

I was missing how nice the sun felt on my skin without feeling like I was getting burnt…as it had felt for the past five months. And I was missing the sound of the birds, other dogs, runners, etc. I was missing it all. 

Focusing on too much at one

Not only was I not present in the moment, but I was focusing on multiple things at once.

Of course, focusing on too many things at once and not being present in the moment impacts us in other ways.

It can negatively impact our working memory, reduce our creative thinking, increase our anxiety and lower our productivity. It leads to more significant mistakes. Here is what I know:

  • I want my working memory to be strong 
  • I don’t want to feel scatterbrained 
  • Creativity is one of the most important things to me, and I don’t want to sacrifice that
  • Lower anxiety is something I need in my life, and productivity is how I can “typically” hold such strong time boundaries
  • I’m not a big fan of making mistakes because I put myself into a situation where I was stretched too thin

Consciously, I want all these things, but it took a close encounter with an overly large acorn (is it just me, or does that sound like a good band name?) to remind me to be present and focused. 

Where do you need to be more present in your life?

In your career or leadership? What about in your day? What negative implications do you need to consider when you feel like you are moving from one thing to another without focus and presence?

We can get caught up in the actions of a typically booked calendar, especially with an overbooked calendar. If you recognize that you are on the hamster wheel of “doing,” now is the time to stop spinning the wheel and get more present, focused, and intentional.