As Thanksgiving approaches in a couple of weeks, let’s turn it upside down. Rather than giving thanks, let’s give those around us something to be thankful for. Here’s the perfect gift – your attention.
A friend recently said to me, “The most precious gift you can give someone is your attention.” That idea stuck. Today’s world is cluttered with demanding gadgets that insistently beep and buzz until attended to; pop-ups that relentlessly hog the screen and bully their way into the forefront. Attention becomes a precious bit of energy that we pilfer away carelessly.
Here are three actions you can take to give others that precious gift of your attention.
- Your next meeting. In the next meeting you participate in or lead, walk in the door, sit down and put your phone conspicuously on the table face down and don’t touch it until you leave. As conversation unfolds, look each person in the eye and listen. Notice their reaction and the quality of the relationship that is generated by the simpe giving of your attention.
- Visitors in your office. You are knee-deep in emails when your co-worker walks in the door. Stop typing; remove your hands from the keyboard and turn to face your guest. For the next few minutes, give them your full attention. Perhaps you’ll find that you reach resolution quicker or you generate more interesting ideas together or, maybe, the person feels heard. That last one is indeed a precious gift.
- The others. This last one is my personal favorite. As you go about your day, notice all the small interactions you have with the other people like Tim, the person taking your order at Panera; Joyce, the checker at the grocery store; or Juanita, the bank teller (all people I encountered today). Maybe for you it’s Julio who makes your coffee or Susie at the dry cleaners. Whoever it is, for each of them, pause, make eye contact, hold eye contact, smile and engage in momentary conversation. The exchange may not last a minute and yet it matters. These are people accustomed to being overlooked. When you instead give attention to them, notice how they brighten–and all it cost you was a moment of attention.
And for me, I would like to thank you for reading. Through reading, you give me the gift of your attention. For that, I am most grateful. I hope you go and share the gift of your attention with others.
It was a beautiful Texas afternoon and I decided to take a short walk along the street where my mother lives. Walking, I passed a short, old woman slowly ambling along out for her afternoon walk and carrying her cane. We smiled and acknowledged each other as our paths crossed. As I returned, there she was again still carrying her cane. This time she paused and remarking on her walk, “I’m like the little engine. I think I can. I think I can.” She continued on her way with a smile.
It made me think about all the tasks on my to-do list that make me cringe; the ones that require attention and focus but aren’t so fun. It takes a lot of energy to get to these sometimes. Here are three steps that work for me. Hopefully, they’ll also work for you.
Set aside the time. Schedule the time on your calendar and don’t let anything else encroach on it. Maybe it’s an hour or two or a half to full day. Identify a time and block it off. Keep your resolve and don’t schedule anything else that could take up even a sliver of that time block. If you are like me, when that appointed time comes, you straighten the desk and get your resources together. Do all that before the time block so that you are ready to hit the ground running (as my mother would say) and take full advantage of your day.
Keep it distraction free. Just before (not during) the time block, turn off the ringer on the phone, set it out of reach and disable email, text message or social media popups. Tell work colleagues that you will be out of pocket for this time period. Ask them to respect your time and to wait on any interruptions until after you finish – unless it’s an emergency. The idea is to give yourself uninterrupted time. Each interruption drains your mental energy and it takes precious time to get back to where your thought process was prior to the interruption.
Engage in positive thinking. Now, feed yourself positive thoughts like:
- I can get this done;
- I’m going to finish this task and get it off my list;
- I’m perfectly capable of accomplishing this.
The brain responds well to positive input and you will set yourself up for a productive work period. Start the positive thinking the day before the scheduled time so that your brain is revved up and in gear when the appropriate time comes.
Find your version of “I think I can” whatever it is for you. Think of the little engine that could and just get it done!
Photo credit: Isantilli/ 123RF Stock Photo