Be Present – Seven Ways to Be More Productive and Enjoy Life More

Each day and each moment of each day is a gift that we all have been given. When you stop to think about it you know this is true. But it is an easy fact to forget when you open your email, look at your to-do list or see a steady stream of people asking you for help or to get something done . . . now. The world conspires to keep us moving faster and to multi-task at every turn.

Unfortunately most of the time when we are moving at that frenetic pace we aren’t at peak efficiency or effectiveness. We know this too, but too often we don’t act on that knowledge. What we need to remember is the value of right now.

And right now…

and right now.

The value of the present moment.

When we stop multi-tasking and live remembering and valuing the present moment we will paradoxically get more done. We will have better relationships, we will learn more that we can apply in the future and we will enjoy ourselves more each day.

To get to these benefits we must get past the pace and seemingly the expectations of the world around us. We must find ways to slow down enough to be present in each moment. The rest of this article offers seven ways to be present so you can reap the great benefits of doing so.

Be grateful for the “present.” Let’s put first things first. If you want to be more present in every conversation and situation, you must be grateful for that moment. Even if you don’t like the situation, when you are grateful for the opportunity you are better able to stay mentally in the moment rather thinking about what you will do “next.”

Note: Granted, this first piece of advice is a bit philosophical and doesn’t provide you with a specific strategy or tactic, but this philosophy will drive your ability and willingness to do all of tactics that follow. Read on for the specific actions you can take.

Take a deep breath. When you find your mind wandering beyond the current situation, start by taking a deep breath. This breath can serve as a reminder to help you refocus and to center you as well.

Focus on the present moment exclusively. Do one thing – just one thing – at a time. The crux of remaining in the present is to focus on the task, person, situation or whatever is in your current moment. If you are thinking about what you are going to say next, what you are going to do next, or what you are going to have for dinner you aren’t focused on right now.

Reduce the noise. Turn off the iPod, the radio or the television unless that is your current moment focus. The noise and distractions around us can easily pull us away from the current moment, divert our focus and reduce our effectiveness.

Refocus your inner voice. When you notice yourself judging, analyzing or having another sort of mental dialogue in the current moment, shift your mental focus by saying to yourself, “now, now, now” or some other phrase that will help you bring yourself back to the current moment, situation or activity.

Be more observant. Pay closer attention to the present moment! Notice what your senses are noticing, but what you may be unconsciously tuning out. What is the real message under the words you are hearing? What do you smell, what can you taste? What do you hear (in addition to the words)? When you open yourself up to be more observant you give your brain something to think about that is relevant and helpful in the present situation, rather thinking about another time, place or activity.

Ask “What do I want to remember about this moment in time?” I once read the advice that when you are on vacation at a place you truly value, that you should take an omni-sensory, three-dimensional picture of everything about that place and time in your mind. Taking this “picture” helps you savor the moment in the present and helps you remember it forever. This advice combines the concepts of being grateful and being observant. I believe this approach can be used anytime, as a way to capture a moment for memory, for future reflection and more. You can stimulate this activity by asking, what do I want to remember about right now? Or a similar question that works best for you.

These activities will make a difference in your results – both personal and professional. The benefits mentioned at the start of this article will all be yours as you perfect the habit of being in the present moment.

Christmas Gifts for Toddlers – Make the Presents Last More Than a Day

When I go through the toy store or a Wal-Mart with my three year old, I know exactly what he will say. “Oh,” he’ll exclaim with a mix of excitement and surprise. “I want THAT for Christmas!” What toddler boy doesn’t want a new train, truck, racecar or fighter jet? It’s a safe guess your toddler has a long list too. The question is, how can parents make the Christmas gifts last? How can you help your toddler enjoy and appreciate his new things for many days instead of five minutes of glory? Here are a few ideas that have worked for us and our friends:

1. Enjoy 12 days of Christmas. Do you have presents stacking up from grandma, grandpa, aunts and uncles? Or perhaps you’ve purchased 5 or 6 presents for junior yourself. Try starting Christmas on December 13th and allow your toddler to open one present per day until Christmas. This will spread out the excitement and allow your toddler to enjoy each gift. Why just have one day of Christmas when you can have twelve?

Now many of us don’t have enough gifts piled up to begin opening on December 13. Try opening a gift a day starting on December 20, or just open one on Christmas Eve, most gifts on Christmas day, and save one gift for New Year’s. The idea is to spread out the Christmas cheer.

2. If you’re traveling, open some gifts before your trip and after. If you’re headed to grandma’s house, the last thing you want to do is load your already packed suitcase with your toddler’s new bike. You can open your gifts at home before or afterwards. It’s always fun to save a gift at home so when you need some incentive for your toddler to behave well during that plane ride, you’ve got something to offer.

3. Do something special for someone else. Teach your toddler to give gifts to the less fortunate so he can be more grateful for the avalanche of things he will receive. This year, our family packed a shoebox full of toys for Operation Christmas Child, a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse. That shoebox will be delivered to a boy who may live in a slum in Calcutta, or an orphanage in Johannesburg. Your toddler will remember the shoebox and begin to understand that there are many children in the world who have very little.

4. Re-gift! Search for a forgotten toy around the house, something your toddler used to love playing with six months ago. Wrap it up and give it to him again. You’ll be amazed at how much fun he’ll have with his long lost friend or toy.

Your toddler will have a Christmas to remember as you try these gift giving ideas!

Pillars of Success – Embrace The Present

As we progress through the journeys of our lives, careers and businesses, we often stop to reflect on where we are at a given point in time. Like mapping any trip, we have certain expectations of our progress along the way. Similarly, setting timelines for our goals make them more tangible and urgent. What happens, however, when we find ourselves at a place other than where we expected? A typical reaction is to explain, excuse or perhaps even criticize. The mere fact that we see ourselves as not being “as far along as we should be” passes negative judgment and sets the stage for the world of scarcity thinking. The situations where this kind of scarcity thinking can creep into our psyche are numerous. Here are some examples that may be familiar:

A person begins something that is new and uncertain and finds themselves in a group situation such as a class or educational program. Immediately, they start compare themselves to other and begin to think that “everyone else is so much more qualified or further along” and wonder how they will ever catch or keep up.
A corporate professional thinks their career is passing them by. They see themselves passed over time and time again for recognition, leadership opportunities or promotions. They wonder how it is that they are so stuck where they are and others are moving ahead of them
A new entrepreneur who is sure that they have done all the right things still hasn’t achieved what they thought they would by this stage of their business. Like the professional, they see their peers moving effortlessly toward greater success. They may try new and different things, grasping at this idea or that but become more frustrated or despondent that they are still stuck.
In each of these examples and in others like them, the constraints of scarcity thinking become apparent. What is focused on with laser intensity is “WHAT IS NOT”: what skills are deficient, what career progress or entrepreneurial success is not attained. The Present reinforces our sense of failure as seen through the lens of our own expectations or our assumptions about someone else’s journey.

Step back for a moment and imagine that whatever your circumstances, whatever your present situation, you are exactly where you are supposed to be. Where we are at any point in time is the cumulative effect of each of the decisions, actions, external events and our responses to them. Thus, while we may not be where we expected to be, we are where we are supposed to be. By embracing the present, we allow ourselves to discover the unique opportunities that are available to us right here and right now. Instead of beating ourselves up for not being somewhere else, we can identify the options that may have been overlooked otherwise. Perhaps instead of being “stuck”, we are where we are because there is knowledge or information that we need to gather before taking our next steps. Finally, consider the possibility that we are where we are because we need the chance to step back, catch our breath and enjoy things that may have been pushed to the side in the pursuit of our goals.

Our goals and objectives are like stops or progress points on a trip. We set a target for where we would like to be at a certain point on our journey. What would you do if you find yourself in Flagstaff at the end of your day’s travels instead of Albuquerque? Do you “fire” yourself? Do you cancel your trip or give up and go home? Do you keep driving relentlessly to make Albuquerque before you stop? Probably not. Instead, you likely consider the circumstances that brought you as far as you are, reassess your journey and plans and then go out to discover the surprises of a place that don’t know very well. The same approach works for our life and professional goals as well. It’s your journey, and each stop along the way is an important part of the map that will guide you where you want to go. Enjoy where you are. You are supposed to be here.