Wherever You Are, Make Sure You're There
Most people’s focus is spread far too thin.
Instead of narrowing their time and energy into only what is most important—family, health, personal development, leaving a legacy—they’re bogged down by countless obligations.
Most people spend the bulk of their most potent energy reserves on (when you really look at it) essentially meaningless tasks: Email. Commuting. Complaining. Television. Social media.
Many of these are simply inconsequential tasks we build up to be of utmost importance.
As Benjamin Hardy explains: “Most people lack the confidence to go big. They prefer the dopamine boost of getting lots done, even if they aren’t making any progress.”
The worst part about prioritizing minutiae over Legacy Tasks (the projects that truly define who you are) is you become less and less present in whatever you’re doing.
If you’re not present and fully engaged with whatever you’re currently doing, you’ll experience subpar results, relationships, and outcomes.
Be Where You Are
In Anders Ericsson’s book Peak: Secrets From the New Science of Expertise, he describes how world-class experts become so skilled.
When they were practicing and training, they were 100% engaged. Nothing else mattered. Chess grand masters, mixed martial artist champions, and professional athletes had one thing on their mind—whatever it was they were currently doing.
They didn’t dilute their time and energy by multitasking and thinking of other projects. “It is better to train at 100% effort for a shorter time than 70% for a longer period,” Ericsson explains.
"It is better to train at 100% effort for a shorter time than 70% for a longer period." - Anders Ericsson
The same went for resting. Once they stopped training, they forgot about practice entirely. When they were off the clock, every fiber and thought was spent on recovery and relaxation.
100% focus when you’re training. 100% relaxing when you rest.
Most people don’t have the discipline to truly “be where they are,” so to speak.
100% focus when you’re training. 100% relaxing when you rest.
If they’re spending time with their partner or children, they’re not 100% present. Their mind is elsewhere, like the constant push notifications on their phone or mentally crafting some work email.
The problem with this perpetual lack-of-being-present means everything gets diluted.
Your relationships will never reach peak levels when you’re not emotionally present to actually “be there.”
Your work will never reach peak performance levels because you never give tasks 100% of your effort.
Your bad behaviors will either take far longer to change (or never change at all) if you never fully engage with working on yourself.
If you’re constantly “zoning out” and thinking of non-related tasks, you can never fully engage with solving the difficult problems currently facing you in that situation.
This combination of low attention output and longer time spent means you waste hundreds of hours accomplishing something that could have been finished long before.
And the results won’t be that good anyway. Here, just a few tips to help you get present at work and present at rest.
How to Be Present at Work
Most people’s “working time” is not done at peak performance level.
They prefer to simply “be busy” instead of actually accomplishing anything. This system of work leaves most people stuck in the same rut, unable to progress or evolve into smarter and more skilled individuals with higher incomes.
However, when you are results-oriented, rather than “busyness-oriented,” you give yourself every opportunity to work on what really matters—you and your work.
In Cal Newport’s book Deep Work: Rules For Focused Success in a Distracted World, he makes the case that deep work—long, uninterrupted periods of intense concentration—is rare and extremely valuable in today’s economy.
On the other hand, shallow work—low-quality output that is easily replicated—is the overwhelming trait of the majority.
Stay present and focused on whatever task you’re doing.
Most people have shallow work capacities. They prioritize “being busy” over actually getting results. Many companies even set themselves up for this failure with “open office” plans that only make workers more distracted in these hectic environments.
If you can train yourself to have the discipline to cultivate deep work habits, you give yourself one of the most highly sought-after skill sets in today’s economy. This means more income, more opportunities, and more growth.
There is high demand for individuals with deep work capacity. There are more opportunities, more money, and better futures for individuals who are disciplined enough to stay present and focused on whatever task they’re doing.
How to Be Present at Rest
The "deep work" concept applies to recovery time, too. When I was working in corporate America, the worst part of my week was Sunday afternoon.
Time I should have been resting was wasted on worrying about the coming week. I wasn’t present and engaged at home on Sundays—I could usually be caught staring off into space and mentally preparing for the stresses of the week.
This is a bad system. It replaces rest-time with more stress and makes you feel like you don’t have less time away from work.
Want to have really long weekends?
Be 100% present wherever you are.
If you’re spending time with your partner, focus completely on that. If you’re going for a short jog, focus entirely on what’s around you—the cars, the trees, the scenery, the dusty old gas station, the vacant high school, the abandoned dirt lot next door.
This forces you to be in the moment, and prevents you from wasting time thinking about the future and stressing about what you can’t control.
Time goes slower when you’re intensely focused on whatever you’re doing. “Waking hours” don’t really count if you’re in a mental fantasy or zoning out.
Time goes slower when you’re intensely focused on whatever you’re doing.
People’s lives become shorter and shorter through mental absence.
Instead, be present and focused. This is, as the saying goes, how to become “an old man in a young man’s body.”
You live more life this way. You have longer weekends. More time with the friends and kids. More time to relax, rest, and recover.
Most people opt to spend any off-time on simply thinking about work.
But not you.
Wherever you are, be there.
“Our life is what our thoughts make it.” - Marcus Aurelius
Would your loved ones say without hesitation you’re a present, engaged individual with them?
Most people would find this answer is no. Being present is not the norm—it’s a rare trait found only on the margins of society.
Being present is not the norm—it’s a rare trait found only on the margins of society.
There is no true “rest” for the majority, only brief periods of sleep and numbing out through TV and other not-so-great habits.
But for those who make the simple choice to focus entirely on whatever is in front of them—their spouse, their child, their novel, their dinner plate, their friends, their work email, and nothing else—these are the individuals who will witness a revolution in their lifestyle.
Being present is the concrete foundation for every goal worth attaining. Intimacy with your loved ones, enormous progress at work, evolving into a better version of yourself, are all natural results that begin with being present.
Many people are never available. Sure, they may even be sitting right across the table from you, nodding empathically as you speak…
But they’re not there.
They’re still at work. They’re replaying that conversation from earlier, they’re wishing they were somewhere else.
Wherever you are ...
This article originally appeared on Medium