7 Tips To Be Fully Present When You Have A Lot On Your Mind

I recently did a "Getting Things Done" workshop where the first exercise I had the team do was to list on a piece of paper all the things that were on their mind at that moment.... I asked them to be thorough. Then I asked them to think not just about work, but also what was going through their minds about home, family, hobbies, entertainment, etc. If it was on their mind, they needed to get it down on paper. They had only 10mins to do this brain dump.

The number of items each team member listed was between 13-28.

That’s a lot swirling in the head.  But these people were not unusual.  I bet if you took 10mins right now to do the same exercise, you would be in the same range.

How do you think all of those things swirling in the head impacts your ability to be fully present with a direct report, or fully present in a meeting?

Being fully present is an easy way to show someone, or a group, that you value them.  It is also a fantastic way to create impact.

But how can you be present when you have 13-28 big things on your mind?  How can you push them aside for a bit and focus on what is before you?

1. Brain dump.

Try the brain dump exercise I described above.  Just dump everything in your head onto a piece of paper.

Next to each item, quickly jot down the ideal outcome you want for that item.  Then write down the next action step that needs to be taken to achieve that outcome.

For more on this, check out Productivity Made Simple.

2. Schedule time to worry.

Maybe you don’t have time to list everything.  An impromptu meeting is about to happen and you need to be fully present.  A technique that has helped some people is to schedule a time to worry about the things that are on your mind.  Literally, put it on the calendar. (You can create a code phrase for it in case others look at your calendar.)  Don’t be surprised if, after you set the appointment, you find you can fully focus.

3. All distractions out of sight.

What distracts you when you are in a meeting?  Often it is a smartphone alerting you to a text or email.  Sometimes it is a call, or someone knocking on the door.

Make a list of the things that have prevented you from being fully present, then find a way to radically deal with them.

So for example, if your phone is the culprit, turn it off and put it in a desk drawer. Don’t let the smartphone run you.

Look at the other things that distract you.  What do you need to do to radically deal with them?

4. Set an alarm for the end of the meeting, or ask someone to knock on the door when five minutes are left.

Since your smartphone is away, have some sort of alarm that can go off 5mins before the meeting is scheduled to be over.

Another way to do that is to ask your assistant, or the next person who is meeting with you, to knock on the door five minutes before the meeting is scheduled to wrap up.

Five minutes should be sufficient time to capture the action steps from that meeting and close things up.

If you need more time and you choose to run late, let those who need to know how much time you think you’ll need, with some small buffer.

5. Deep breathing.

Now it’s time to take five deep breaths.  Get some oxygen to your brain.  Let yourself be present to your own breathing on the way in, and out.  This type of focusing will help you get into the right mind-space so that you can be fully present.

6. Look them in the eye.

When you get in front of the stakeholder or group, really focus on their eyes.  Make a connection with those who are before you.  See if you can pick up their emotions.  Allow yourself to mirror it for a moment.  Let yourself be with the person/group you are with.

7. Active listening.

Active listening techniques help you to be fully present.

Those who are masters at being present are those whom you want to spend more time with.  They lead you to feel motivated, engaged, and liked.  Learning to be fully present is also a great way to make sure you are communicating clearly with the person meeting with you, which can be a huge time saver. Being fully present is a gift, but by using these seven tips, you will find it is also a skill that can be developed.

Chew On This:

  • How many things are swirling in your head right now?

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.

How To Be Present During The Holiday Season

I love the holiday season.  It is a time for joy and celebration.  It allows me to spend more time with family and have more relaxed social bonding time with my work team.  There is more laughter and reflection during this time. It is also the time in the calendar year where my heart is divided the most and I wrestle with where to place my energy and focus and presence. Is it the same for you and your team?

On the work side, there are year-end reviews, plans for next year, day-to-day labors, tasks to be completed, projects to wrap up, year end goals to make, and more.

On the home side, there are travel plans, receiving family plans, shopping for presents, decorating the house, kids stressing out over finals, kids on vacation from school (while you are still working), and the myriad of emotions that surround the holiday season.

If we really looked at it, it is exhausting and exciting at the same time.

This pull in emotions and time leads companies to see a drop in productivity during the holidays and rightly so. Less business transactions create greater overall stress. If you are in a business that is heavily based on the holidays, you are putting more hours into work during this time while juggling time with family and friends.

This is a time for most of us where our truest priorities show up.  What we truly value is emphasized and we put off what is less important.

There is a principle here that can help us throughout the calendar year: If we want to be present in the workplace and at home, we have to make hard choices as to what things we are going to focus on.  I suggest that we look at what is most important to our role at work and what is most important for our home life and emphasize that.

1. At work, what is the most important part of your role?  As you process what is most essential in your role, imagine if you went all in there and saw the most success.  How could you emphasize that during the rest of your holiday season? Can other priorities hold off until the new year?

Is it too late? Are there too many other things that have to get done? Then, how could next year’s holiday season be better?

2. At home, what is the most important part of your home life?  How could you go all in there? Where do you need to invest well in your family? In what relationships or settings do you need to be more present?

With both of these questions, look for a theme more than a task.  Look for a way you can get into the groove and stay there.

The most important part of my role at work is to “get to the heart” of my clients’ concerns. During the holiday time when things are slower, I can focus on a key ingredient that helps me get to the heart. For me, that ingredient is building the relationship I have with them. Within that goal, writing holiday cards and setting my clients up to continue the "heart" work in the new year is key.

At home, that same “getting to the heart” priority can shine through.  There, it is about really connecting to my wife’s and children’s hearts and truly listening, enjoying, laughing, and having fun with them. Although we may be doing various tasks, traveling, and celebrating, my focus is always connecting with their hearts.

Chew On This:

  • What can I prioritize to be most present both at home and work this holiday season?


Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.

*This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.