The first eight years of our marriage, my wife and I fought a lot. However, It wasn’t over the things you might typically think of. There was ONE thing that was continually causing discord in our relationship. It was the lack of my complete presence. You see, in my mind multitasking was easy. I could check Instagram while I listened to my wife spill out her heart – WOW was I foolish. It only took me eight years to discover the true value of being present – and It had benefits that extended well beyond my marriage.
Why being present in life (and work) is so important
Too often we are not where our feet are. Think about that for a moment. We might be physically present with our family, but oftentimes we can find ourselves checking out into a device. We live in an era where boredom is no longer an emotion we experience. At the slightest hint of boredom we can cure it with the magical machine that we hold in our pocket.
This is a HUGE problem. Not just in our relationships, but also when it comes to work.
Let me give you an example: You sit down to write a blog post (like I am right now) and you find yourself feeling a little bit distracted. You feel a bit uneasy, a tiny tinge of boredom arises, and you reach for your phone without even thinking. Thirty minutes later you are still scrolling and realize you have a meeting that starts in 10 minutes.
The time you had planned to be productive is now wasted – an inability to be bored is hampering your productivity.
Your presence at home affects your presence at work
You might think that what you do outside of work doesn’t affect your productivity in the office. But that simply is not the case.
Failing to be fully present in ALL aspects of our life conditions our brains to act in a certain way – without us even thinking much at all about it. Have you ever found yourself just reaching for your phone for no reason? I know I have. The reason is that it’s a reflex!
If you find yourself constantly “distracted” chances are it’s more than just the external triggers – the pings and dings that pull us into our devices. I can speak for experience too. I went years with ALL those triggers turned off, but still struggled to be present and undistracted at work and in social settings.
The reason was that I gave in SO easily to boredom. At the slightest hint of discomfort I would check out into my device. Oftentimes stating I was, “looking for inspiration.”
You see, most of us have conditioned ourselves to simply check out when we are bored, anxious, stressed, or just feeling a bit uninspired.
There is good news though. This is a problem with an easy solution, but one that takes a bit of discipline. Did you cringe a little bit when I said that word?
Practice Being Bored, AKA Present
The best thing you can do to improve on this is to simply NOT check your phone. When you’re waiting in line to pay for groceries, or at a stop light. Resist the urge to whip out your phone in those down moments. Go to the bathroom without your device. Put it away when you arrive at home from work, and if you really want to up your game utilize your phone’s do not disturb and screen time limiting features.
It’s important to note though, that you will make mistakes. You will mess up. This reflex is hard to break. I’m a huge advocate for removing the tempting apps from your phone. At the very least take a 30 day fast from all social media (and having email installed on your phone). This will begin to help you practice being bored, and help break the reflexive habit of checking your device.
The new found silence will be a bit uncomfortable, but lean into it, embrace it, and learn a bit more about yourself. Once you have a good amount of practice being bored, you will find it’s much easier to be present in all aspects of your life.
I teach my clients how to practice “Wind-Down Time.” There are two components of Wind-Down Time.
One is: Being fully present with friends and family, as well as when you are doing any activity away from work. This means no checking email or social media during family time or when you are out on a run or working out at the gym.
Two is: Practicing a daily wind-down ritual that will help you close out your day and be present in the evening for family and/or friends. This practice only takes 15-30 minutes and involves closing all open-loops from the day, doing a final email check, and making an acknowledgement with yourself that you are done for the day.
Rest Recharges Your Mind
Resting and being bored also recharges your mind. It allows it to recover. Just like you need a recovery period from working out, you also need this from your work.
The toxic hustle culture tells you to always be on, to work 60-80 hour weeks, but that is simply not smart or sustainable. It’s a recipe for burnout.
Giving your mind regular periods of recovery allows you to work harder and smarter when you are at work. Plus, since you have trained your mind to be present, you will now be able to get more done in less time.
Being fully present has massive value. It benefits our loved ones, and also helps us to be more productive when we are at work. Being bored, and resting allows our mind to recover, so that we can better execute on our projects and make wise decisions.