This is part II of a III-part series. You can read part I, Don’t dwell on your losses, here.
“Be fully engaged. If you’re in a conversation with someone, be fully in it.”
I sat on the phone with Amanda, typing every piece of advice she gave me. Thirty minutes in, it was the best one-liner yet and the thing I’ve thought about most since that night.
It’s going to take three posts to get through our conversation. You can read Amanda’s first piece of advice here. This is her second.
If I’m being realistic, I’m 80% into whatever task I’m working on. The other twenty percent is dedicated to whatever sporadic thoughts come to mind.
When I’m writing a blog post, I’ll hit a paragraph where I can’t quite figure out what to say. So I’ll grab my phone and scroll through Instagram for a minute, then I’ll remember I haven’t heard from a client yet so I’ll check my email, and then I’ll start wondering if the rumors about Mark Cuban running for president have any meat behind them, and suddenly forty-five minutes go by and I can tell you the birthdate of all three of Mark Cuban’s kids but I have no fucking clue how I’m going to write that one paragraph.
So I just give up on the post altogether and get on with my day.
I check my phone in every line I stand in. I watch Suits while doing yoga. I rarely have less than thirteen tabs open in Chrome.
And since two weeks ago when I called the first manager I ever had and asked for advice, I keep hearing her say, “No one can multitask.”
“All three of my mentors [referring to three executives at her company] have this philosophy of being fully engaged. Be engaged in what you’re doing, and if you’re not excited, it’s not a fit for you.”
“So you never, I dunno, check Instagram while you work??” I asked. “Never??”
Loving my work isn’t my problem. My problem is thinking about one billion things at once—99 million of which couldn’t possibly be completed in this week, month, or even year—and getting so overwhelmed I shut down completely.
“I mean, I have my phone with me,” she said.
Thanks Amanda, I thought, you’re making me feel like a worthless pile of shit over here.
“I haven’t fully perfected it,” she continued. “If someone texts me, I’ll usually respond. But I will say this: Since I’m aware of it, I always make the conscious decision to pick up my phone, scroll through Instagram—whatever it may be. I’ve gotten a lot better about it. And come on—I don’t want to be in the office from 6AM to 6PM! I want to make the best use of my time.”
Oh my God, that was so me.
One of my downfalls, which happens to a lot of people who work from home, is to always be pseudo working.
I work longer hours than most of my friends with desk jobs. But I, unlike them, have the liberty to go workout, go get groceries when the line isn’t a mile long, or make lunch from scratch in the middle of the workday.
It’s been my New Years resolution for three years running, actually—to be 100% invested in what I was doing at that moment, instead of spending my nights and weekends making up for the twenty percent I let myself get distracted by.
And if it’s just not happening that day?
“If I hit a roadblock in the middle of the day, I go workout,” Amanda told me. “Or step out side and just check-out for a minute. I’m a big believer in that. If you’re not being productive, have a coffee, take a walk, and just step away.”
There have been so many days—particularly the days when I have lots of copy to write—where four hours is dedicated to just staring at my computer. And at the end of those four hours, with absolutely nothing to show for my time but a blank Word doc, all I can think is, “Good Lord. I could have spent the day touring a museum.” The result would have been the same.
Whatever you’re doing—be in it.
Like, really in it.
We know this. We have read roughly 238 Forbes articles on how we shouldn’t check our phone, email, or notifications in order to be productive. We know.
But forget productivity or being the reincarnation of Tim Ferris for a second. Whatever you’re doing, just be in it. If you’re walking to work, enjoy the fact that it’s a gorgeous fall day outside and you have the best commute on Earth. If you’re working out, think about your workout and forget the thousand deliverables due the next AM or the fact that your boss ripped you to shreds thirteen times that week. If you’re talking on the phone with your friend, be in that conversation. Hell, if you’re watching a movie just watch the damn movie and close your laptop.
Whatever you’re doing and for whatever purpose, just be in it.
More about Amanda: Amanda was the first manager I ever had in my life. At just twenty-five years old, she carved out a brand new department (with me as their intern!); and before age 30, she was pitching Fortune 500 companies. For the past seven years, she has worked for the fastest-growing company in Iowa, which has grown from just north of 100 employees in 2011 to nearly 800 today.
Tomorrow’s advice from Amanda: If you’re not nervous, you’re in the wrong room.