The Key to Being Mentally Present when Workload is High

“Why did you take the cap off the salad dressing?”  

My wife asked me, slightly chuckling.  “You can just flip the cap open.”  

Why are you laughing?” I asked.  “Because I know you’re mind is somewhere else,” she replied, “I know you, you’re not present.”  

Dang it she’s right (I hate that).

She knows me better than I know myself.  It was the result of me slipping back into poor habits; the all-consumed, “put my blinders on and go until he passes out,” Nick Snapp of the past.  

It was a glimmer of the guy who turned a 90-day book project into a 13-month neurotic masterpiece that only my sister and mother read, a guide for installing trim and molding for baby nurseries…what the heck was THAT all about anyway?

I’m still not sure, but I thought I learned something.

It was the BIG PUSH at the end, the light at the end of the tunnel, and all I could think about is my podcast launch.  Who has room for keeping tabs on salad dressing caps?

I was working my tail off to get everything in place for the launching my podcast, and my wife recognized I was putting in more hours and not always present.

Yet, I did learn something this time; it wasn’t like it was before.  I learned how to listen without shutting everyone out.

Our salad dressing conversation dug a lot deeper than I wanted it to. It was like a root cause analysis. I fought it at first, but our talk helped me come to terms with what was going on; why I was going back to my old MO. 

As a result, I was able to be honest with myself and shut down my natural habits quicker than before, back when I wrote the “Baby Nursery Survival Guide,” (yikes). 

Who knew a podcast launch was so much work?  Who knew how quickly I could fall back into former tendencies?

I was so passionate about getting my message out about the show, that I started throwing all my productivity habits out the window…talk about an oxymoron!

When We’re Not Mentally Present

I’ve traced this back to something I know and talk about all the time…the open loop.

When I’m working during the day, I’m working - that’s all there is to it.  Being mentally present with my family during work hours isn’t an issue, because my job is to be mentally present with my work; it’s completely planned out and expected…no stress.

I take pride in the fact that I’m supposed to leave work on time.  When I lose childcare at 4PM every weekday that’s supposed to be it; shut it down!  Nevertheless, the workload is high at the present moment...

So what to do?

I’m good about knowing what the most IMPORTANT thing I can do each day is.  In fact, I put videos together every day, and I manage a community, Productive Yours & Mine (PYM), where we discuss just that, EVERY single DAY.

So when it comes to thinking about, knowing and understanding the ONE thing I can do each day to move my business forward, even if it’s a scary thing, I usually knock it out of the park.

Through PYM, we’re developing the habit of identifying these things each day, and planning our days accordingly.

So What’s the Issue?

My business would be just fine if I worked on that one important thing each day.  Nevertheless, I'm the “Productivity Guy,” now, and that makes me feel like I need to do more.  I push myself to do more each day, even if it’s not all that important to my business.  I'm excited about my work now!  To quote Shawn Blanc, I delight in the details!  

The issue for now is letting go.  

I talk about "Productivity for Purpose," so what’s the purpose of delighting in the details?  It's definitely something I need to consciously think about.  As much as I recognize why I’m in business, and why I’m working hard on things like this The Make it Snappy podcast launch, I still need to fight my natural tendencies.  I still need to think about the purpose of it all.

I’m doing this for my family!  They're my reason, my purpose.

Yet, when it comes to realizing the fruits of my labor, appreciating my purpose and spending quality time with my family, I’m not taking full advantage.  I have trouble shutting it down!

So how does one shut it down?


Close the Open Loop

I’ve come to realize that even if I have trouble letting go, even if I want to do it all and then some, I probably can, if it’s done the right way; but there’s a crazy-important distinction that we can’t miss, and it’s a simple one:

There’s a time and place for everything.

Appropriate times and places are prepared in advance.  If not, if we’re depending on unscheduled time to get something done.

If we’re squeezing time in whenever possible, and then obsessing about it when that time doesn’t come around, we’ve created an open loop...

game over, we've failed.

There’s indeed a time and place for everything, and it's not the time we attempt to create as life's moments pass by.  

For me, I’m least present when I have something to do (list write a blog post) and I have no idea when I’m going to get it done, i.e., my open loop.

For whatever reason, our minds tend to obsess about open loops, especially during times we can’t do anything about them.

The only way I’ve found to close the open loop is to schedule the extra work in advance.  For me, it’s with the person it affects the most, my wife.

All it takes is a simple conversation; a mutual agreement, about what needs to get done and why this particular thing is taking longer than my allocated work hours.  Most times it’s not that big of a deal; just something to negotiate. 

On the flip side, leaving open loops “open,” can cause relationship destruction.

Times of high workload will come and go; everybody gets that.  Yet, to manage them and still be present in the moment, that’s where true talent come to shine.

This Christmas, figure out when you’re going to get your work done so you can be present with your family, and have that conversation ahead of time. 

Your family deserves your attention, and you deserve being there to enjoy them.

May God bless you and your family with a happy and healthy holiday season.

Merry Christmas!