By the time you have read the title of this article there is a 50/50 chance that you have got something else on your mind as well. In 2010, Harvard psychologists carried out a study that tracked people’s activities, their thoughts and their feelings at random intervals. They found that just under 50% of the time when individuals were carrying out one activity, they were actually thinking about another. In effect, they often sought to distract themselves from doing a job or activity they did not want to do by thinking about something else.
On the surface this sounds absolutely fine. However, this distraction technique does not actually help to reduce any stress posed by dealing with something we would rather not be doing. As the mind is not focussed on the task at hand, it can start to be drawn into more negative thinking or projections. In turn, the individual is left feeling worse than if they had just concentrated on the the job in front of them.
The trick, of course, is for people to pull their thoughts back to (and thus fully appreciate) the present situation. Actively living in the present, and letting go of fearful, angry or depressing thoughts about the future, is necessary for business operators to formulate na carry out objective and SMART action plans for growth.
Living in the present is being very aware of what is happening in the here and now, and practising “mindfulness” because our thoughts will wander off away from what we are experiencing right at this very minute. Good business management and planning for growth would seem at first sight not to sit hand in hand with this ethos. You might be asking, “What about the 3-5 year business plan and financial forecasting?” We like to plan ahead and make sure that we have all our ducks lined up in a row for whatever comes our way, so we can be ready to change and adapt quickly to what the future has in store for us.
That’s absolutely right, but in order to make sure that you are strategically planning for the future, you have to look at what is happening right now. What is working well for your company, and more importantly, what is working well for your customers? Listen to what they are telling you at this moment in time because they are the ones who will help shape your business moving forward. Make sure you spend time getting feedback from your staff at the same time and consolidate all the information you are given.
Be more present
Focussing your mind on the here and now means taking time during your busy working day to become more grounded in the present. One of the ways to do this is to make a conscious effort to step away from the mobile device, cell phone or desktop computer. Then you can focus fully on the people who deserve your attention. It does not have to be for a long period of time but it stops you being distracted, and you are giving yourself permission to concentrate on what others are trying to communicate to you. You also actually get to have a real conversation with other people and look them in the eye while you are doing it, and it’s very difficult to let the mind wander when this is happening as well.
Celebrate the positives
There are ways to do this while getting a lot of input to allow you to explore future ways of increasing or diversifying the business. One way is to organise a team away day or half day where you take time to celebrate the achievements of the team. Part of this time is then used to focus on how to future-proof the company and how everyone can learn from both success and any failures.
During this time you can also run some team building exercises and start to identify potential leaders you can develop to move the company forward. There may be specific projects that you can bid for, or ideas for new product lines or services that can all be incorporated into your strategic planning. Encourage the same feedback from your current client base – running an online marketing campaign using social media to gather input is a relatively inexpensive method of doing this.
Stay focussed but enjoy the ride
Staying focussed and staying positive is the mantra of Aussie entrepreneurs Paris Marchant and Lawrence Lees, the co-founders of Generation Outcast Clothing. They started by selling their clothing at the Glebe markets in Sydney in 2016, and have seen their online media following boosted to over 170,000 followers. While they are definitely focussed on their destination, it is clear that they are enjoying every minute of the present. And this is a very important component of living in the here and now.
It is very understandable that for an owner of a business, you do need to have that personal goal and drive to succeed. When we live in the moment our brains become more energetic, more motivated, our creative juices start to flow, and as a result we are better engaged and more productive. This is the key point, the lodestone as it were, because as leaders and strategic thinkers, we become more resilient.
Ultimately, if we are able to build up a healthy way of managing our business activities and have the resilience to deal with whatever the future holds for us simply by “living in the present”, what have we got to lose?
About the Author
Jo Hannah is the CEO & Managing Director of Total Face Group, a Melbourne-based facial aesthetics and cosmetics company. While the company focuses on helping clients through external procedures, Jo also promotes the importance of a physically and mentally healthy and balanced lifestyle, which includes practicing mindfulness and making an effort to live fully in the present.