Being in the Moment, Really

Being in the moment has become almost a catch-phrase of hipness. There is a competitive zeal among social media posters to show how in-the-moment they are.

From The Problem With Multitasking.

From The Problem With Multitasking.

It makes me chuckle when being in the moment hits the wall with the eagerness to multi-task. Text messages are sent with the expectation that you will stop doing whatever you are doing (including teaching or driving) and answer the text. Last week a client chided me for not getting back fast enough. When I explained that I was teaching–standing in front of a classroom teaching–and returned her text at break, she said it wasn’t fast enough. “I expect more from my vendors,” she said. The only comfort I could offer her was the same level of concentration and attention would be hers when I was working with her.

It always surprised me when my coaching clients read their emails or check Facebook during their coaching session. There’s been enough research done to make me sure that reading Facebook takes up most of your attention and distracts you from coaching.

Being in the moment allows you to focus on one thing exclusively. Deeply. Thoroughly. Multi-tasking (which really doesn’t exist, we task switch, paying attention to one thing at a time, and switching back and forth) seems like a much more attractive skill when we are waiting in line or waiting for someone to pay attention to our needs.

Yes, there have been some studies that show that creativity is enhanced when creative people make blender-pulses of thought over similar circumstances that gave different results and picking experiences that coincide with what you are working on. That doesn’t sound like multi-tasking to me, that sounds like lateral thinking about a single problem. Staying in the moment.

Still, when the doctor is finally in your room dealing with your paper-clad self, you want all the brain power focused on you. You wouldn’t take kindly to the doctor checking emails and texts while you are talking about your suppurating wound.

In yoga class, I noticed a woman who was checking her texts between downward facing dog and child pose. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of yoga?

Be a proud single-tasker. Take the time to be and stay in the moment till the thought is done. Re-capture the ability to concentrate on one thing at a time for more than five minutes at a time. Your brain will thank you for it. (And so will your coach).

-Quinn McDonald was never a good multi-tasker, and always was horrible at collating anything.


16 thoughts on “Being in the Moment, Really

  1. I wrote a guest blog post once about “living in the moment” and what it meant to the people I asked. I was surprised it meant very different things to different people. I was glad I clarified, because some took it as not caring about the future and throwing caution to the wind. That is never what I mean when I say I am living in the moment. I always mean that I am focused on what is happening to me, I am fully engaged, mainly without concern about the past and without concern about judgement.

    I am a “multi-tasker” just as you described. I believe I can read a text while listening to a lecture, however I agree I would get more out of the lecture if I put the phone away. Turning it completely off is worrisome if my teen aged boys are engaged in some activity and I want to be accessible to them. I have been in Church when I received an emergency call. I was relieved I had the phone on vibrate. I took the call outside.

    I believe it comes down to respect. A coach, teacher, doctor, anyone – should give respect to the person who is seeing them. And vice-versa. Sometimes, I need to respect myself and just unplug and disconnect from everything. I embrace a moment for myself and really listen. That, to me, is living in the moment.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  2. Hera, hear! When delivering professional development to classroom teachers or facilitating a staff meeting I say that “unless you are expecting a vital phone call please turn your phone off. I expect the same attention from you as you would from your students.” Everyone dives for their bags.

    I just don’t believe someone can check emails and/or facebook and still get the maximum benefit from a coaching session, they are absent for that short period of time. Not only is it bloody rude, it’s wasting an opportunity.

    • When I ask my students to turn off their phones, I get a lot of “my kids may need to call me!” So I tell them to put the phones on vibrate and if the kids call to leave the classroom to take the call. It hardly ever happens. I have to remind them. Yes, they sit in a professional development class and talk on the phone. Not everyone of course. But it always surprises me. And if they are under 30, they text constantly, and when I ask them a question, they have no idea. And no one takes notes anymore. OK, I’m done now.

  3. Quote: When I explained that I was teaching–standing in front of a classroom teaching–and returned her text at break, she said it wasn’t fast enough. “I expect more from my vendors,” she said End quote.
    Quinn maybe we will soon see a post that you have fired this ill mannered person!! 🙂

    • I have an amazingly long fuse for corporate clients. They are often trapped in behaviors they feel they must exhibit. Sometimes, if I can’t manage it, or I can’t please them, we part ways.

  4. Normally, I agree with your posts. Today, I am offended.

    Why? Because you are a coach and yet, you are making a sweeping assumption that all of us have to learn and take in information like you do.

    I am a kinesthetic learner. Most people would say that means I learn by touching and motion, but that’s a bit like saying a blind person learns by reading Braille. People who are auditory and visual learners process information in one part of their brain. Kinesthetic learners process information in multiple parts of their brain.

    The whir of the ceiling fan, the trees bending in the wind outside the window, the nervous tic of somebody’s pencil – I am just as aware of those things as I am of what you are saying to me. Everything is a multi-layer cake to my brain, and I cannot learn unless there is multiple things going on.

    Let me repeat that, in case you just missed it. Multi-tasking is how I learn – and it does exist and is a valid learning style. No, I don’t carry a cell phone, but I do carry an MP3 player and yes, I am constantly attached to it. The fact that I have an earbud in one ear when I speak to you is not rudeness or tuning you out – it’s actually me feeding my brain more layers so I can concentrate better.

    Of course, you are yet one more coach (I could add in the countless teachers and trainers I’ve dealt with) who starts with an assumption – the assumption if I am not looking at you and paying close attention, that I am just being rude and not learning. That I need to turn off the player and quit being difficult and start conform to your brain’s thinking style in order to be a ‘good’ student. That I am somehow less happy because I appear to be distracted or scattered and that I would just be so much more fulfilled if I could learn to live in ‘the moment.’

    What would really, really make me happy? Is just to be accepted. My brain is not bad or wrong – it’s just different.

    • I’m a kinesthetic learner, too. And I clearly accept you. Nothing I said excludes you. There is a big space between disagreeing with an opinion and being offended. No need to move to the offended end so quickly. I don’t mean to offend anyone, but my blog is my opinion. That being said, I never claim that my blog is the Ultimate Truth or that I’m Right and everyone else is Wrong. It’s my opinion. If I had to cover all opinions on all blogs, I’d never write a thing.

      You are always welcome here, but if you choose to be offended, it’s your choice. If you choose to disagree, well, that’s what comments are for. And you left an interesting, if angry, one. Everyone wants to be accepted–everyone.

      I wish you had been in my writing class two weeks ago, where I played “catch” with a kinesthetic learner while I explained active and passive voice, and then lent him my iPhone so he could listen to music during the rest of class (my arms got tired from trowing and catching the ball.)

      We all make assumptions, too, about what other people think and what they meant. You just did. Asking for what you need usually does the trick.

  5. I forgot to mention a tale I was witness to: a colleague was interviewing candidates for a job where I worked several years ago; the candidate answered her cell phone DURING THE INTERVIEW! It wasn’t an emergency or anything like that… just a friend calling. Obviously, she didn’t get the job!

  6. Beautifully written Quinn; and a good reminder about what being ‘in the moment’ really means. I am continually amazed at the number of people today who put themselves at the beck and call of all their devices and anyone who attempts to contact them. I wonder if they ever experience the peacefulness and wonderment of being alone in nature, or simply ‘alone’ for awhile.

  7. oH my goodness….yes! yes! yes!
    People have become so attached to their electronic relationships as to forget the people and world around them. And like three year olds some also expect instant gratification to the point of ridiculousness (is that a word?). It’s shocking to me that as a group we homosapiens have become so egocentric. What are we teaching our children? We are creating a society of very rude individuals.
    As far as multi-tasking goes…I get your point Quinn…we really are doing separate things in a chain but ask any Mom with three kids who each have a friend over and it’s dinner time if she is multi-tasking and the answer will be a resounding “yes!”. lol

    • Yep, moms do lots of things at the same time–and generally that’s when something goes wrong. How many moms have said, “I just took my eyes off him for one second?” and you’ll know how futile it is to get it all done. Even if you can chew gum and walk at the same time, being present for all six kids is not going to happen at any one moment.

  8. You hit the nail on the head. I always make mistakes if I try to do more than on thing at a time. People do need to put down the electronics and look up at the world.

  9. I think “multitasking” is adopted from computer user-interface design. It’s a relatively recent thing, and it’s not a complete success.

    Humans multitask effortlessly (“walking and chewing gum”), most computers fake it by being incredibly fast, and computer interfaces are still trying to find the right balance between “I need to concentrate” and “I need a lot of different tools”.

    Another related (but separate) issue is notifications initiated from other people, times, or events that use your computer as a conduit. If you set an alarm on your phone and when it comes due you’ve turned the phone off, should the alarm still “ring”? On many phones it will, because the designers decided your intention when setting the alarm must have been important (in fact I’m one of them). On the other hand, if you’ve set the same alarm and you picked a special, distinctive sound, but when it comes due you’ve turned off the sound, what then? You intended to hear that alarm. You also intended NOT to hear it. Which intention should the designer prioritize?

    Sometimes humans want to concentrate on one thing; sometimes they want to spread their sensory net much more widely. Linda Stone called the second state “continuous partial attention”. Supporting both states with tools that support intentions is quite the challenge. For instance, the next step in text-messaging systems is going to involve automatic canned replies (like email systems have been able to do for a long time), and the step after that is going to involve a program that can reply in a number of ways depending on the message. When it comes to a text there are intentions — and needs — on the sender’s side as well as the receiver’s.

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