micah fries

The Power of Being Present

When I’m walking through my morning routine each day, one discipline I practice is to write down “Daily Virtues”. Daily Virtues are the attributes or qualities I want to see become more manifest in my life. (more on that in another post). I divide these virtues into three categories, Be. Live. And Do.

The first virtue, in the first category is Present. Be Present. We live in a time of extreme accessibility. The majority of people who can get online and check Facebook whenever they desire can be reached at every second of everyday. While this does come with many advantages, one major setback is the temptation to not be fully engaged with any one task or person for any meaningful length of time. Even as I write this, I’ve answered three text messages, had two in person conversations, and engaged in one twitter exchange with Micah Fries where we fought it out over Jay Cutler’s ability as a starting quarterback. (For what it’s worth, the Dolphins are in trouble).

While all of these have merit on their own; each time I shift focus from one task to another I become less effective in my current conversation or task. The result is far from being more productive I become less, as the quality of what I am producing decreases exponentially the more divided I allow my mind to become. How much more creative, helpful, and productive would I be if I gave dedicated focused effort to each of these encounters?

How much more of myself could I give to each person or task if I focused on being present?

Several text messages turn into one phone call. Scattered, unfocused and forced writing becomes clear and free. I can also give myself freely to the conversations that present themselves instead of viewing them as distraction. One of the best pieces I read on this recently came from Google. In makers time, they suggest scheduling focused creative time into your weekly calendar to give yourself the best opportunity for success. It is a good place to start. In addition to makers time, there are a few other things I’m trying.

Working in 45 minute blocks. I try to divide every task or project into 45 minute blocks. Administrative tasks, reading, and writing are all divided into blocks of 45 minutes. I literally set a timer on my phone or computer and give focused effort to the given task for the time I have allotted. Some tasks can take more than one 45 minute block. That’s ok, the 45 minutes are there to give you a breathe at the end to get up, get another drink, check email and do some pushups.

Dedicate separate places for separate tasks. Find a spot that you read in, one you do the majority of your creative work in, and one in which you crush phone calls or administrative work. When we dedicate specific places to specific tasks we immediately eliminate the clutter we normally have to untangle from and can get right to work. Relatedly, if you create things for a living, find somewhere new to work for a day or a week. Pro tip: The library is great and it’s free yo!

If you are finished, stop. If you are having difficulty focusing and processing what you are reading stop. If the creative muse has left, let it go. Especially in creative work if you have come to the end of your resources, don’t waste any more time producing something you are simply going to delete later. Get up, take a breath and change locations if necessary.

Don’t cut your time short. While this sounds like the exact opposite of what I just said, sometimes it is necessary to keep your head down and grind out work for the day, especially administrative tasks. If you have set 45 minutes to work, then work for the time you have allowed and don’t quit

Try new things. Different things work for different people. Some people may find more success camping out in one place all day. For others, working in two hour blocks is a better fit. Whatever needs to happen, don’t stop until you find what it takes for you to be most successful.


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