I was recently sitting by myself at a restaurant working on my laptop during lunch. A group of four women was sitting next me. They seemed to be good friends who enjoyed each other’s company.

From time to time, they would say something that caught my attention, and I’d find myself eavesdropping a bit especially when they started talking about their husbands.

One of the four complained that her husband was traveling for work so much that it felt like he was never around. Then she said something particularly interesting: “But at least when he’s here, he does a good job of being fully present.”

“Fully present.”

What an interesting phrase. What a particularly relevant phrase for life in 2017.

I knew exactly what she meant by “fully present.” Many professionals are so busy and get so engrossed in their professional lives that they can’t seem to turn it off and slow down when they’re with family and friends.

As a husband, dad and busy guy who travels a fair amount for work, I can relate. Don’t get me wrong; I love time with my family and friends, and they would probably say I’m fully present most of the time. But not always.

There are times when my mind is elsewhere. I’m not always fully present. Upon hearing that woman in the restaurant, I wondered, “How often have I short-changed my kids during our time together because I was worried about a proposal deadline the next day?”

Daydreaming and preoccupation aren’t the only reasons people fail at being fully present. Cell phones and iPads are more overt ways of detaching from people who are sitting right next to us.

It’s not just our family and friends for whom we must be fully present. Many of us neglect and take for granted colleagues and clients.

I know of one CFO at a multi-billion-dollar company who is so disinterested during one-on-one meetings with his direct reports that he pulls out his phone and plays Candy Crush right in the middle of their conversation. He does it all the time. It’s incredibly offensive.

If you have trouble being fully present in your professional life, it could come back to haunt you in the form of diminished career advancement and fewer clients. Here are five ways you can make yourself more fully present in your work:

Attentive Mindset – When you’re with another person, whether it’s one of your employees or a prospective customer, you need to make that person feel like nobody in the world matters more at least during the time you’re together. Remember that the person you are with could say something that alters the trajectory of your career. You might miss it if you’re not fully present.

Time Management – The more control you have over your time, the less likely you are to be preoccupied. If you are proactive and things are getting done on time, you’ll be under less pressure, thus making it more likely you can settle into the moment and actually enjoy time with people.

Mastering Technology – Make sure your technology works for you and not the other way around. CRM systems are a perfect example. They have done wonders for the productive power of sales teams, but when they are used improperly, they lead to reduced communication, less face-to-face interaction and diminished trust between employees and bosses.

Break the Addiction – Looking at my phone is literally addictive. Every few minutes, even during meetings, I have an impulse to look at my phone. Sometimes it is as if my hand decides on its own to reach into my pocket and grab my phone. To avoid this temptation, some people purposely leave their phones on their desks or in their cars during meetings.

Protective Restraint – If you’re a successful professional with good leadership and communication skills, you are in demand. People constantly try to get you to volunteer and participate in company-wide projects, committees and task forces that have nothing to do with your core responsibilities. Politically, you need to accept some of these opportunities, but don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed with “extra-curricular” activities. If you do, it can be awfully difficult to focus on one thing at a time.

About the author

Jeff Beals is a sales consultant, professional speaker and award-winning author who helps companies increase their profits and associations achieve their missions. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To learn more, visit JeffBeals.com.

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