Six Practical Tips to be More Present and Engaged
attention leadership presence
1. Get more sleep
The simplest way to be more engaged in your life is by getting enough sleep. If your brain isn't getting enough rest, it will never be able to muster its full resources of attention to any given task. It will always be playing catch up or trying to protect its frayed nerves from fully plugging into the world and the present moment.
It's similar to exercise. Once you use a muscle, you need to rest it, otherwise it won't get any stronger. Continue to train without recovery and you'll actually get weaker.
And don't fool yourself into thinking that caffeine can solve the problem. Caffeine amplifies what's already there. If you're too sleep-deprived to be present, caffeine will only make you a more high-energy kind of distracted. It doesn't increase focus unless there's actually focus to begin with.
Sleep will also make you look healthier, more alert, and generally better, which goes a long way to boosting your presence.
2. Put Your Phone Away
The experience of being alive really is a blessed miracle, and yet we tend to rush through it without paying attention. Remembering how honored we are to be alive, and paying each experience the respect it is due, can help you stay present.
If you go for a walk through a forest, but you spend the entire time lost in thought, or worse, checking your smartphone, you aren't paying due respect to your environment.
You might not think a forest deserves your respect just because you're walking through it, but the same thing applies to people. No matter how 'normal' it has become, checking your texts and emails in the middle of a conversation with someone is a sign of disrespect. It shows that you don't think they are as important as someone or something else in another time and place.
Who would you rather trust: the friend who shuts off their phone when they sit down with you or the friend who pulls it out and puts it on the table, just in case?
So, if you want to lead, inspire, and motivate people, get in the habit of prioritizing the person in front of you over the person buzzing your phone.
3. Measure and Track Your Performance
Measuring or tracking performance lets you disperse attention over time, making it less taxing in any given moment. For example, if I track my income, I'm forced to give my full attention to my balance every time I swipe my card or hand over some cash because I write it down. I can keep my mental subroutines directed towards my bank balance, which helps me be more aware and thus responsible about my money.
It can also be a touchstone that gives you a bit of a boost in your focus. If you know you will have to record whatever you're doing, you'll naturally sit up and take notice. Might as well make use of your conditioning to work for gold stars (you were that kid, weren't you? Don't worry, I was too).
This works well for things like exercise, weight loss, food, habit chains, money, and to-dos. I haven't found a great way to use it with people, so if you have any ideas, please leave a comment
4. Clear out Clutter
Have you ever been stressed out just by being somewhere busy and noisy? Alternatively, have you noticed how just being in nature can help you find clarity in your thinking? Our thinking can reflect our environments, especially when we are tired and can't spare the energy to sort through all the environmental distraction. Tidy spaces let us direct more resources to being present instead of figuring out what is important and what needs to be put away.
Why do you think Zen monasteries are so spare? The lack of distraction allows people to focus on what really matters.
You don't have to go to that extreme, but make an effort to keep your clutter to a minimum and see if your ability to focus doesn't improve.
5. Increase Your Ability to Focus
The stronger your ability to focus, the easier it will be to actually focus, and the stronger your presence around others will be.
How do you strengthen your focus? Just like physical strength, you exercise the right muscle. In this case, you exercise your ability to be present with a dedicated, in-depth training regiment.
The most common kind of mindfulness training is sitting meditation. it is certainly the most intense, but it isn't the only option. Any activity that requires focus is a good candidate--playing music, creating art, rock climbing, golf (I can't believe I just endorsed gold), writing, contemplating artwork.
The key is not to let your mind wander, which gets easier as you get better at the task. For this reason, a task that lets you grade the difficulty is ideal.
If you have enough in your schedule already, meditation is a good option, since it can be done in as little as 5 minutes. It also gives you the most bang for your buck.
So, there are six things you can do to make it easier to exude charisma, fascinate people with your scintillating wit and charm, and generally be the guy or gal everyone wants to be and open up to.
Try them out and let me know your experiences in the comments.