”I can’t take this any more! There’s just too much to do! And we never have enough time to discuss and prioritize. We’re always too busy. You never have TIME for me!”

This is what John – a leader of a product team – was hearing more and more often. Regardless of the fact that he really tried his best. REALLY.

John had a 30 minute individual meeting with each of his team members every week. Every single week. And they had weekly team meetings… And monthly review meetings… And quarterly strategy update meetings… And summer parties… New Year parties… project parties… How many meetings can a person reasonably have??

But it was not helping. Nope. The situation was getting only worse.

Meetings were taking a lot of John’s time, and he struggled to get his own work done. His days were getting longer. ”Damn it! Where do I find more time? I’m already sleeping too little. I have no time for my family. I give all my time and effort to everybody, but nobody’s happy with me!”, he cursed.

These types of problems are all too common in today’s work life. Not enough time, overwhelmed by duties, never-ending frustration. And how do we usually deal with it?

We try to fix this by prioritizing, delegating, working harder, and when it is not enough, we start taking time from our families, friends, and sleep time.

And then we’re on the road to hell.

I know. I’ve seen so many people going down that drain. And I’ve been there myself. I’ve been hanging on the verge of burnout, trying to give enough time and energy to everyone who needs it. Not getting my own tasks done. Feeling overwhelmed.

But then it hit me. There is another way!

There is a missing ingredient in all of this that makes a HUGE difference to everything!

You see, there is something else going on here. Something beneath the surface.

Let me explain.

When people complain “you never have TIME for me”, what are they actually saying?

As human beings, we all share some deep, psychological needs – something EVERYBODY wants and desires. Those include a need to connect with others – to be seen, to be at least a little bit of interesting in the eyes of other people, to be understood, to be appreciated.

And when we are busy, those needs are unmet. You see, stress makes us less empathic and destroys our emotional lives. Even when we interact with each other, our minds are not fully there. We can spend days together without really connecting with each other. And when our deeper needs are not met, there is a constant sense of dissatisfaction. A chronic state of frustration.

It’s like trying to build muscles without right nutrition. You can lift those weights as Arnold Schwarzenegger himself, but if your not eating enough proteins, your muscles will simply not grow.

In our meetings the nutrition – the missing ingredient – is our full presence.

We can see each other all the time, but if we are not fully present, our meetings are empty. There is no nutrition. Even though we have interacted, we have not truly connected.

This means that at a deeper level people are really not complaining about lack of your time. Instead, they are saying:

  • “I feel that I have not been truly able to share my situation with you.”
  • “I feel that I’ve not been truly listened to.”
  • “I feel that we have not REALLY met and shared our ideas, wishes, thoughts, emotions – the stuff that is important to us.”

Then again – what happens when someone is really present for you?

Once you feel that someone really, truly listens to you, is 100% present for you, puts all his attention and effort on trying to hear and understand you… WOW! That feels wonderful! It makes you calm down. It makes you feel important. Valued. Trusted. Connected. And dammit that feels good!

Connecting with others is not a question of time. It’s a question of PRESENCE. 

By being fully present you can improve the well being of people around you. They will feel more connected, heard, valued. Being present will also improve your own well-being. You see, once you really tune in with others, it will improve your concentration and focus. Once you focus on the other person, your presence improves. Your mind is not wondering here and there, but you are present HERE and NOW, in this moment. You will have more clarity of mind. This is how being really present has a calming effect on yourself, too.

And the best of this all? It doesn’t take much time! True connection and presence can happen instantly, if you just focus your attention and really tune in. We both just need to bring 100% of our attention and presence into the situation. And how do you do it? It’s actually quite simple:

  • Once you meet another person, remember to DECIDE to be present. This is the toughest part. We forget it so easily. But once you remember, you can make a firm decision: “I will focus on being present, listening to the other person. Everything else can wait.”
  • Put everything away – your mobile phone, computer, papers. You don’t have to check your Facebook every 15 minutes.
  • Take one or two deep breaths – exhale slowly and empty your mind.
  • Be present in the here and now. If your mind starts wondering, bring it back. A thousand times, if needed.

It’s quite simple, isn’t it? You can do it if you just want to do it!

So how did John deal with his situation? He started to have SHORTER meetings, but made sure he was 100% present. He requested presence from his team members, also: “I want us to truly focus on our conversation now. Can I please have 100% of your attention?”

He started to give LESS TIME, BUT MORE PRESENCE to his team. And it worked. They all felt more connected. The qualities of their discussions improved. The emotional climate of the team lifted… Then you can bet there was a difference in the result as well.

Try this out. Make a firm decision to meet your colleagues with full presence. Put away everything else, take a deep breath, and focus. Then leave a comment or hit me with an email and let me know how it worked!

P.S. If you like this post, do me a favor and share it with others!

Originally published at www.jarkkorantanen.com