In 2015, Give the Present of Presence
Running a growing company can be a whirlwind. There’s staff to manage, customers to delight, milestones to hit, administration to facilitate, bills to pay and so much more. If you’re anything like Renee and I, the to-do’s seem to pile up faster than the to-dones, but you get through it - and you keep on chugging - because you love what you do.
But with only 24 hours in the day, it’s easy to get caught up in it all, distracted by the goals in sight: more users, revenue targets, or an upcoming launch. You can start to work ‘hard’ instead of smart, become ‘busy’ instead of focused or worse: find yourself focused on the wrong things.
Investing in studying the art of presence -- to be fully there, open and giving of your energy to the task at hand -- allows you to think more clearly, make better decisions, connect more with others and in the end, feel more accomplished. Being fully present in the holistic sense is the best gift you can give to yourself, your team and your customers.
One of the mantras we live by at Onboardly is simple: You are responsible for the energy you bring. This applies to a meeting, to a phone call or to a relationship.
Noodle on this: When was the last time you brought negative energy to a situation and it affected others?
As the company grows and we get older (and hopefully wiser), I’m reminded of this often. The team looks to Renee and I as founders for grounding, positivity, encouragement and words of advice. It’s important in those moments to remember that the gift of presence (not just physically, but emotionally) is the greatest gift one can give. (Positivity is contagious. I’d encourage you to pass it on!)
With lessons learned through 2014, here are a few things we’ve found useful to help with increased mindfulness -- even with a bursting startup schedule.
Give Yourself Permission to Go Offline
While taking time ‘offline’ might sound a little cliche at first, reread the first few words in the subhead above. The important part is to “give yourself permission.” Startup founders are notorious for feeling as though they need to be ‘on’ 24/7/365. Logged in to Hipchat or other messaging tools permanently, replying to email within minutes as they pour in, defaulting to an ‘always on’ state.
You teach other people how to treat you. Instead of being perpetually on and available, block hours away and give yourself permission to be more present in creative activity like reading, writing, brainstorming and strategizing. Distractions can be barriers to creativity.
Your team will learn to respect those boundaries, and you’ll be more present with them (less distracted) when you’re able to chime back in on day-to-day activities.
Your Action Items for 2015:
- Set boundaries with your team and communicate them,
- Keep them without guilt or apprehension - give yourself permission to do your best work,
- Consider implementing a policy around acceptable email use (ours is that anything not marked as ‘urgent’ need only be replied to within 24 hrs, outside of weekends). Pick up the phone when something truly is urgent. Reduces the pressure to live inside the inbox… yuck!)
Commit to More Face Time
Remote teams like ours can find this one particularly challenging, but I can’t underestimate the need for physical presence as well.
Since 2012, our team has committed to designing at least 2 formal team offsites and several day-long offline sessions per year. We’ve found that in-person time is hands-down the most effective way to build lasting relationships among team members, and to give everyone the comfort to share ideas, concerns and even personal aspirations.
The same applies for face time with clients. We’re fortunate to have had clients in some amazing cities and towns around the world. We’ve worked with startups in Amsterdam and London, on the East Coast, through the Midwest and of course - the Bay area. But in each case, we make a commitment to at least one face-to-face visit within the first few months. We also default to Skype or Google Hangouts as much as possible.
Startup life is tough, but it’s the internal connections and relationships that keep everyone committed and on the same page. People with those that they know, like and trust. Quality time accelerates those things.
Your Action Items for 2015:
- Schedule recurring face-to-face meetings with key staff on a weekly bi-weekly or monthly basis,
- Book a flight to meet with an important customer, or schedule a dinner with several customers if it’s appropriate,
- Consider using Skype or Google hangouts more often with distributed team members.
Find Comfort Outside of Your Comfort Zone
When you find yourself in the same situations day in and day out, it’s easy to zone out and just occupy yourself with busy work. When you catch yourself in a frenzy to simply ‘get things done’, take a moment to ask yourself whether or not the work you’re doing has meaning.
The best moments of clarity often come when you’re outside of your comfort zone. Try taking time away from your desk to gather your thoughts through exercise, meditation or something to stimulate another part of the mind like a crossword puzzle or book.
For those focused on efficiency, try yoga with a colleague or your co-founder. A great way to get more face to face time AND become more focused on the bigger picture.
Your Action Items for 2015:
- Plan for at least one long or two short regular breaks from the startup grind per day. Schedule in an activity of some kind or even a nap,
- Experiment with new things like meditation or yoga that will consume all of your mental capacity (when you’re trying to figure out what the heck you’re doing - it’s hard to get pulled back to work thoughts!).
Don’t forget: as easy as it is to blame others for your anxiety level or building to-do list, you’re responsible for the energy you bring. By giving the gift of presence this year, you might just find you’ll receive an awful lot in return.
How are you feeling this holiday season? Chilled like cranberry sauce in a can or creeped out like the Elf on the Shelf? Let us know in the comments section.
Photo Credit: Unsplash