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7 Tips to Being Present

August 6, 2012

By Ryan Ervin

The cockpit of Tony Stewart’s NASCAR was 120 degrees on Sunday for four hours. He averaged 194 miles per hour, and he lost nearly 7 pounds from sweat.

This is all very normal for the winner of a NASCAR race. However, what shocked the racing community is that while driving, Tony Stewart was texting with his mother and making dinner plans.

NASCAR is confused as to whether to congratulate Tony, or fine him. The story is starting to become a hotbed of debate.

Alright, this isn’t true. Tony Stewart didn’t really do this. (A person who is texting and driving is 30% more likely to cause a wreck than if they were drunk.) It’s too absurd, and too dangerous.

However, don’t we do this every single day? Who isn’t going at 200 miles per hour and doing too much?

This is the busiest and loudest culture in the earth’s history. Never before have there been so many things that beg for our attention. (Right now, I have 12 windows open, plus Batman music running, just to help write this post.) TV, movies, email, texts, Facebook, Twitter, and actual phone calls (what are those?) on our smart phones, plus the people we’re actually with. And kids. God help us if we have kids.

Being fully present and available is incredibly tough. How often are you at one place, but your mind is thinking about what’s going on tonight, or reviewing a conversation you’ve already had? I’m awful at this.

Here are 7 ways I’m going to be fully present, where I am.

  1. Schedule in stillness time. This is different than Bible time. I mean stillness. The best way to be fully present is to practice it. Sitting in stillness, quieting the soul, and learning to be fully present takes practice and hard work, like anything else that’s valuable.
  2. Eliminate distractions. I know this sounds obvious, but do we do it? Turn it off, mute it, put it on silent. Eliminate the possibility of distraction.
  3. Write down 3-5 things that are too important for distraction. I use Michael Hyatt’s Life Plan for this. It keeps reminding me of what’s too important to be distracted from.
  4. Turn off  your cell phone. Seriously. There is a 99.99% chance there will not be a fire (and if there is, we can’t help anyway). When should you have your cell phone off? I’m turning mine off on my way home, and leaving it off until my kids are in bed.
  5. Use pen and paper. Too often, when using a laptop or desktop, I’m tempted to check my email and Facebook. The solution is old school. My legal pad doesn’t have access to my hundreds of friends and dozens of emails.
  6. Schedule check-in times. All those inboxes do need to be checked, but not all the time. Try scheduling 3 times a day when you’re going to check them.
  7. Do not multi-task. Multi-tasking doesn’t work. When you multi-task, your IQ is 10 points lower. That’s worse than smoking marijuana. (No, you’re not an exception to this.) This Harvard blogger stopped multi-tasking for one week, and loved it. No more phone calls and emailing. One or the other.

The benefits to being fully present stand out, mostly because so few of us do it well. We listen better, do things better and faster, and give greater care.

My best personal example of this was going back to school… without having internet access at home. It forced me to use my time well while at school and at work. There was no time for distraction or dilly-dallying. I’m convinced that the intense, prolonged focus and compartmentalizing raised my GPA to where it wouldn’t have been, and helped my marriage.

What, for you, is too important to be distracted from?

2 comments

  1. Family. I would love to say Jesus, but if I am honest, I get distracted from him too often. Family is there though, and a constant reminder to be present.


  2. Thanks Derek. Me too.



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