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It’s year-end. So many deadlines. So many distractions. We feel our attention divided between tying up loose ends from the past year, planning for next year, and managing the dozens of things that need to get done right now. Oh, and there are those holiday plans, shopping, special events…the fun stuff. Those demand attention, too.

With all the stress that comes with December, how present are you throughout the day, really? If you’re honest with yourself, how often do you find yourself snapping back to attention during a meeting or conference call because your mind was busy elsewhere? Or maybe your fingers were busy:  Thirty-five percent of Americans admit they shop online while at work, according to a recent survey by, a popular legal information website.

It’s understandable. Hey, multi-tasking at this time of year might even seem excusable. But it’s a trap. When we are distracted, we run the risk of missing little details that can have a big impact later on, and at this time of year when meetings are happening at a fast and furious pace, the risk is even higher. We may only snap back to attention when the conversation has moved in a direction we don’t like, and we don’t even know how it got there. At this point the only way to participate is to be disruptive, i.e. you have to disrupt the flow of the conversation in order to jump back in. What message does this send about your presence?

Leaders:  Staying focused and being “in the moment” allows us to adapt quickly and to actively influence what happens next.  When we stay present, we can:

  1. Avoid potential conflict that can arise when we respond to something that we heard with only “half an ear;”
  2. Pick up on both spoken and unspoken messages in order to uncover potential derailers;
  3. Ask questions to open up or redirect the conversation and unearth valuable ideas;
  4. Acknowledge the contributions of others in order to further the agenda and strengthen relationships;
  5. Model the behavior of being present as an example for others.

Of course, staying 100% present 100% of the time is impossible. We have active minds and active days. However, we can all be more mindful of our mindlessness and more deliberate about what or who we allow to take us out of the moment.

Don’t let the time-pressure of December overwhelm your ability to stay present. Make the powerful choice to “be here, now” whenever it matters and know that this investment in focused attention will pay dividends tomorrow and into the new year.