I’ve become an addict to my phone. It accompanies me everywhere, it provides food for thought. Bored in a discussion? I look into the phone, waiting in line? ’look into the phone, not interested in the conversation happening on the table? ’look into the phone, want to check something interesting to think about? ’look into the phone, in between work? ’look into the phone. And, nowadays, I enjoy more looking into the phone than participate in what’s going on around me. I’m not present in the present moment.
I read a lot on the computer with multiple windows open, often multitasking, tearing myself away from the work I’m doing, why not? after all, there’s so much to read. But, these days, I graze over articles. I don’t read them completely, or in depth. Worse still, if I find a bigger article or one with analysis & research, I skip it. Who on earth has time to read the whole damn thing when there is so much to read? Isn’t the gist enough? But do we read just for the summary? Don’t we read to enjoy the language also? I’ll get to know the story of David Copperfield in five minutes from Wikipedia, but that’s not doing justice to the classic right? It’s the emotions of the characters, the way they are expressed, the dynamics between them, the language and the lyrical technique the author applied in that particular work, all together make that book a classic. Plot is not the whole and sole of the work. Just glazing over the sentences thinking they are just ornamental is losing the whole point. But, I’m too distracted to concentrate. What we need to not more shallow information, but more in-depth knowledge. We need not know what’s happening on all corners of the world but we need to be a master of what’s happening in our corner of the world.
In discussions with friends, I’m physically present but mentally absent – lost in the glowing rectangle in my hand. I frequently ask them to repeat what they just said. Naturally they get upset and ask if I even bother to listen to them. If I barely put concentration on what is said, then will I hear the unsaid?
My colleagues approach me with questions when I’m doing work. Not only do I lose track of what I was doing but also find it hard to comprehend what they are asking. It takes effort to disengage from what I’m doing, reorient to what they are saying and again return to what I was doing. This uses up a lot of mental energy leaving me exhausted and disengaged.
Distractions everywhere. Some out of our own accord, some from outside. How to just be in this present moment? I jotted down some points to help:
Don’t multitask – even though it is thought that multitasking is a skill. It is not. Our brain is hard wired to do one thing at a time. Try this: Write while listening to the lyrics of a song. You can’t. At best, you can either write ignoring the lyrics or hear the lyrics and not write. So, do one thing well. Complete tasks one at a time. You’ll notice you concentrate better, less cognition overload, and the more you are aware of of what you are doing, the better the quality.
Cut down on commitments – We multitask, even when it’s proven that it’s not good. Why do we do this then? To meet our never ending commitments. Let’s remember, no matter what we do, there will always be something undone. So, we should reduce our commitments. Read fewer books/blogs/articles but read them well. Have fewer hobbies but pour yourself in them. Visit few places, but see them well. Have few friends, but be present with them. Don’t take on everything people ask you to, evaluate if that’s what you really want to do.
Be Aware – I recently read an article on how a chocolate could taste if only we paid attention. A excerpt from that article:
gently unwrap the bar and take a look at it. Flip it over, look at the sides. Does it have a nice shine? What about its color? Is the back smooth or rumpled? Do you see any wavy patterns which might indicate that the bar didnít release properly from the mold?
Next, break off a small piece and note the snap Does it crumble or pop? Is the break clean or ragged? Place the small piece in your mouth, move the chocolate around your mouth and coat your tongue, but avoid chewing… Let the chocolate will melt you will begin to taste flavor notes beyond just the bitter, cocoa rush you tasted at the first moment it hit your tongue. Look for various notes and see if you can identify them. Do they come in all at once, or do they evolve as the chocolate melts? Are the notes like a single, clean instrument or more like a symphony? Or worse, like a cacophony of flavors that don’t mesh?1
Be aware of the present. Be in the moment. Take yourself out of autopilot. Actively decide what you want to do and just do that one thing that moment. We’ll find we enjoy what we are doing better.
Focus – What’s the use in freeing up time, if you don’t know what to do with it? Do you know what you want from life? Make a list & focus on them.
Use GTD – The practice of GTD encourages lists based on contexts (Next action lists). Organizing tasks depending on where we are, or what we have in hand helps us in identifying, concentrating and doing only those tasks which are possible to be handled in that present moment.
Relax & be flexible – Don’t cram every waking hour with stuff to do. Leave unscheduled chunks of time. Time spent idly is not necessarily wasting time. Enjoying downtime is not a crime nor is it against being productive. Take time off. Be flexible enough to accommodate the changing realities of day to day life. Be flexible enough to accommodate the curves life throws at us on a day to day basis.
Enjoy the present by being present.