We live in an instant society.

Between technology and social media, pretty much everything is right at our fingertips. On our computer or our smart phones we can receive instant notifications of phone calls, texts, emails, Tweets, Facebook messages, blog comments… The list seems endless.

We’ve grown accustomed to the firehose of information and connectedness. And we think we need to know now so that we don’t miss out or get left behind.

Sadly, though, that often leaves casualties. And the casualties are typically the people we care about the most.

We’ve lost the art of being present.

Have you let your virtual world overrun your real world? When you’re with your family or friends, or even in a meeting, are you constantly checking your phone? Answering texts? Sending out Tweets?

I’ve been guilty of this.

And I’ve been really challenged lately to be more intentional about being present.

There are certainly some people with whom it’s totally welcomed and fine to Tweet and text in their company. There are situations where it’s completely acceptable to do so. Until a real (personal, deep, or serious) conversation starts. Then it’s time to step away from the phone and fully engage right where you are.

The people that we interact and engage with “in real life” deserve our full attention.

They are worth our focus, our eye contact, and our complete mental and emotional attention. Being physically present isn’t enough. We need to train ourselves in the art of being fully present.

There are a few things I’ve started doing to help me be present with those around me.

  • I’ve set the phone and text alerts for my family members to be different than everyone else’s. That alleviates the need to check my phone whenever it beeps to make sure I’m not missing something important from my family. I would know by the sound alone if it’s a call or text I need to check on right away.
  • I keep my phone upside-down on the table when I’m engaging with people. This helps me avoid the temptation to check it every time it lights up or beeps/buzzes.
  • Whenever possible, I switch my phone to vibrate. This is especially important in one-on-one meetings (business or personal) and during special family times (hello, date night!).
  • I keep Twitter notifications for @replies switched off. I simply don’t need that many constant alerts, plus it drains my battery life unnecessarily. I’ll check my mentions when I sign into Twitter, and I can reply then. Nothing on Twitter is urgent enough to need to know now.

Jim Elliot said it best: “Wherever you are, be all there.”

I still struggle to balance all this out, but I’m being intentional to work on it.

How about you?

Do you struggle with being present?
What are some things you’ve done to help?
What are some other things you can do?



29 November, 2011

this! I have been in those situations where someone is clearly not present with me, and it makes me ever more aware of the ways and times I inadvertently do the same thing to others. working hard to get better at this... i don't have anything else to add to the list, but I'm definitely interested in stealing -- I mean, gleaning -- some ideas from others...


29 November, 2011

Love this post. Some things that I do to help me be "more present" as mentioned above is turn of my twitter and fb notifications. I also have certain days especially a day on the weekend where I turn of my cell phone for a time to just be with my family. This is a continual struggle for me as well but one that I am trying to improve on and be more intentional about.

    Trevor Roberts

    29 November, 2011

    Turning off notifications -- either entirely or during set personal "quiet hours" -- is so huge. What an amazing message of value that communicates to those around us.


29 November, 2011

Great post, Trevor! Nothing gets me more than being ignored by someone staring down at their phone WHILE talking to them. A little disconnect would do a lot of folks some good.

    Trevor Roberts

    29 November, 2011

    How do you set boundaries to keep a good balance with this, Brad?

Dana McCallian Byers (@danalbyers)

29 November, 2011

I like these suggestions! Thank you. When I'm in a meeting or on a call - even if no one else is in the room - I shut my laptop so that no opportunities to be distracted catch my attention. I also try to schedule all my calls while my kids are at school so I'm present with my partners when we meet and so I'm present and completely available for my kids when they're at home. We also have TV-free nights at home so that my husband and I can put our phones away and look into each others' eyes to chat.

    Trevor Roberts

    29 November, 2011

    Such a great list of tips, Dana. Thank you!


    29 November, 2011

    oooooh! i appreciate that suggestion to shut the laptop when i'm on the phone (even when i'm by myself) because that ALWAYS ends up being a distraction for me...

Tracy Culler

6 December, 2011

I agree with you and for the last 6 months, I have used silent or left my phone in the car or at home to avoid the distractions. I want to enjoy the present in the real and now time. I believe that I survived in the good old days (as my parents use to say) and I am going to survive now. Sometimes to much information can be a bad thing. The tips are helpful and to bad the rest of society would take these to heart and enjoy what is in front of them (in person).

    Trevor Roberts

    7 December, 2011

    You're right -- sometimes too much (and too constant) is more detrimental than beneficial. We all need to practice the art of being present...

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