Aurelia Flores: Be Present at Work

Via Flickr/mikleman

 (Via Flickr/mikleman)

How many times during our work day do we do things on ‘auto pilot’?  Are we truly engaged in each action we take, or are we thinking about the next meeting, checking our Blackberry, or wondering what we’re going to have at lunch?

One of the most powerful ways to increase productivity in your day, to make sure those around you are engaged, and to communicate your message, is to BE PRESENT.

Instead of half-listening to the meeting, while taking notes , creating your grocery list, or doodling, really pay attention to what’s going on around you.  Even if the meeting itself isn’t particularly productive, why was it held, what message is the organizer trying to convey, who else is in attendance, and what is the energy in the room like?

By making sure to bring our attention back, fully, to the tasks at hand, we can ensure that we do our best job.  AND, it helps us determine if we’re really making the most of our time.

If you’re only sliding through your workday with half of your attention on your job, it’s likely that you haven’t decided what is the most efficient and effective use of your time today. 

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Perhaps you’re caught up in tasks you really didn’t want to do in the first place, so you do them half-heartedly because you just want to get done.  But how does that serve you, or those around you?  Short answer:  it doesn’t.

Be present.  Presence of mind, attention, and focus, in addition to presence of body, will allow you to get more done, to do it better, and to make choices about what actions you take, and the consequences you want your actions to have.

Give yourself reminders to check in with yourself throughout the day (this can be on your calendar), and do the following:

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Ask yourself, “What has my attention?”   Is it one thing?  Or a multitude of things?
  3. Is the one thing that has your attention what you want to be doing right now?
  4. If not, change it.  Put your attention on what you want to be doing, and engage fully.
  5. If your attention is divided, do what’s needed to bring your focus back.  Make a list of the other things for later.  You’ll get to them, just not right now.
  6. Practice keeping focus for longer and longer periods of time.  If you’re only able to focus on one thing for a minute or two, practice keeping your attention for longer, so you can be deeply engaged for longer periods of time.  As we all have multiple pulls on us during the day it can be difficult to stay on track.  But stick with it – it will pay off!
  7. Take breaks.  Perhaps you’ve lost your focus because you need a break.  Take a short break – look around, get up and stretch – about every hour to hour and a half.

When we learn to be present, we get to notice the moments that make up our days.  Be fully active and engaged, or change your actions and focus if needed.  But take back your time and attention – it belongs only to you! 

How can you be more present today?

Aurelia Flores is Senior Counsel at a Fortune 500 company and former Fulbright Fellow who graduated from Stanford Law School. Her website,, offers stories of success, along with resources and programs focused on Latino empowerment.


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