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Marek Struszczyk

Co-Founder ManagerUp

Last modified: June 5th, 2024


Have you ever found yourself mindlessly waiting for your morning coffee, tapping away at your phone, only to realize you’ve scrolled through your entire day’s schedule without actually processing any of it? 

Welcome to the autopilot club, where we experience the waves but are not living in the present moment.

It’s a common problem, especially in the life of executives—our lives are overscheduled, and we’re constantly bombarded with distractions. Finding a few moments of peace and presence can feel impossible. 

But what if you could learn how to be present in the moment, even amid chaos? 

It could make you calmer, more productive, and better able to enjoy your life. And the good news is it doesn’t take a ton of time – just five minutes is a great place to start. That’s less time than it takes to get your morning coffee ready!

Let’s explore further into the essence of being present, offering practical, manageable strategies to weave mindfulness into the fabric of our daily routines, no matter how packed our schedules might seem. 

“Being Present” What Does it Actually Mean?

Being present, or mindful, involves a conscious focus on the here and now—acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations in a non-judgmental way. It’s about letting go of the past, not worrying about the future, and simply being in the moment. This practice has roots in various meditation traditions, but its applicability goes far beyond.

The science behind mindfulness is robust, with studies highlighting its benefits for brain health, stress reduction, and overall happiness. Neuroscientists have found that regular mindfulness practices can alter the structure and function of the brain in ways that promote greater attention, clarity, and emotional regulation

However, without mindfulness, individuals may find themselves on a different path, leading to increased stress and, ultimately, burnout. This connection is not only intuitive but is also supported by a growing body of research. Let’s review some studies showing that burnout is real, and you’re not alone. 

Scientific Studies Showing Increasing Rate of Burnout

According to Harvard studies, about 47 % of people zone out of their present moment.  The scientist found it very distressing because a wandering mind is not a happy mind; it affects your mental and physical health and eventually leads to burnout. 

A recent study by Slack revealed a concerning rise in global burnout, with the United States experiencing the most significant impact. Middle managers reported the highest burnout rate among American workers, exceeding all other surveyed groups at a staggering  43%.

Another study revealed that a significant portion (74%) of leaders reported experiencing burnout. Furthermore, 93% of these executives believe burnout is negatively impacting their organizations. 

The statistics underscore a widespread issue affecting individuals at all levels within organizations, highlighting an urgent need for effective solutions. Rather than dwelling on these concerning figures, let’s pivot towards our 5-minute fixes.

As we face these challenges, it becomes imperative to seek innovative strategies that can mitigate the effects of burnout and promote well-being. Technology, often blamed for increasing our stress and detachment, surprisingly holds the key to unlocking greater mindfulness and presence. Let’s see how. 

First Strategy –  Technology as a Path to Presence

How to Be Present in the Moment
Click on the image to see a full infographic (opens in new tab)

It seems counterintuitive, but our tech-obsessed world can actually offer a gateway to mindfulness and being present at the moment. Mindfulness apps transform our devices from sources of distraction into tools for personal peace.

Harnessing Mindfulness Apps

A wealth of mindfulness and meditation apps can help you find calm and focus:

  • Headspace: Beginner-friendly guided meditations in a variety of focus areas make it easy to learn how to be present in the moment.
  • Calm: Soothing visuals and soundscapes provide a multisensory experience for mindfulness. Consider their sleep stories and masterclasses for extra support.
  • Insight Timer: This app offers a vast free meditation library, including quick five-minute sessions on topics like stress relief, perfect for squeezing some mindfulness into a busy day.

How to Leverage Technology for Mindfulness?

The key is integrating short meditations into your routine. A five-minute session between meetings can shift your entire mindset. It’s your on-demand tool for bringing yourself back to the present whenever you need it.

The Impact

Integrating mindfulness can sharpen your focus, ease stress, and boost your overall mental well-being, offering a path to a calmer and clearer mind.

Second Strategy – Creating Your Personalized Presence Practice

How to Be Present in the Moment
Click on the image to see a full infographic (opens in new tab)

Mindfulness isn’t one-size-fits-all. The best way to learn how to be present in the moment is to find techniques that work for you. Consider this section a guide to building your own custom “mindfulness mixtape” filled with quick, impactful practices.

Tailoring Your Breathing Exercise

Breathing is the ultimate tool for bringing yourself back to the present moment.

Here’s how to make this simple practice your own:

  • Find Your Natural Rhythm: Don’t try to change your breath; just notice the rise and fall of your chest. This awareness is the first step toward being present.
  • Gently Deepen: Slowly begin to lengthen your inhales and exhales. Find a count that’s comfortable, whether that’s a 4-count, 6-count, or something else entirely.
  • Make It Personal: Focus on the sensation of the breath, visualize calming scenery, or repeat a mantra like “peace” or “calm.”

These exercises are perfect for a mid-day reset when you need to find your center and release tension quickly. 

The Power of Gratitude

Gratitude shifts our focus to the positive. Here’s how to harness it to be present in the moment:

  • Three Things: Each day, take two minutes to identify three things you’re grateful for. Big or small, everything counts!
  • Go Deeper: Reflect on why those things matter. This strengthens the feeling of gratitude.
  • Seek Variety: Challenge yourself not to repeat items. It trains your brain to find the good even in ordinary moments.

Sensory Focus Exercise

Our senses ground us in the present. Here’s how to use them for a mindfulness boost:

  • Choose Your Sense: Pick one sense (sight, sound, etc.) to focus on for a full minute.
  • Observe Without Judgment: Notice details of the sounds you hear or the textures you feel. Don’t label them; just experience them, bringing your mind into the “now.”
  • Rotate: Change your focus each time. This keeps the exercise fresh and helps you notice different aspects of your environment.

How to Put it Together

These are just a few ideas. Experiment until you find a few practices that help you find presence and calm. You might use one technique daily or rotate between them depending on your needs. It’s about discovering what helps you connect to the present moment in the way that’s best for you.

The Impact

By making these practices a habit, you’ll improve your mental well-being and focus while also training your mind to find joy in the simple moments that make up your day.

Third Strategy – The Decision-Makers Detox – Finding Focus & Clarity

How to Be Present in the Moment
Click on the image to see a full infographic (opens in new tab)

Decision-making is an executive’s lifeline, but it’s also a major source of stress. 

According to a famous CEO and founder, Bryan Adams, societal expectations often place work challenges above personal well-being for CEOs, leaving many feeling overwhelmed. 

Leaders are increasingly expected to cultivate empathy, compassion, and kindness to be effective. However, achieving this balance between emotional intelligence and maintaining performance standards can be challenging for many.

To combat decision fatigue and ensure clear, focused choices, mindful pauses are crucial. Here’s how to use five-minute mindfulness practices to make better decisions.

Embracing Mindfulness Before Decisions

Before tackling a major choice, take a strategic pause. Consider:

  • Five-Minute Pre-Decision Meditation: Choose a technique that works for you – breathwork, a body scan, or simply observing your thoughts without judgment. This brings you to the present.
  • Setting Intentions: What principles are most important to this decision? What’s the desired outcome? Focus cuts through mental clutter.
  • Visualize the Outcomes: Not to predict the future, but to get grounded in the potential consequences of your choices.

Practical Tips for Integrating 5-Minute Fixes in Your Daily Routine 

  • Schedule It: Block out time for mindfulness, just like any meeting. Even five minutes marked on your calendar helps build the habit.
  • Reminder Notes: Prompts like “Pause, Breathe, Decide” on your desk or phone keep mindfulness top-of-mind.
  • Mindfulness Bell: Apps with occasional chimes remind you to refocus, especially when you anticipate a big decision.

The Impact

Mindful decision-making isn’t just about you. It creates a culture of thoughtful choices, prioritizing clarity over-reactivity.

By taking five minutes to practice how to be present in the moment, you’re not just making a decision; you’re cultivating a leadership style built on mindful success.

Fourth Strategy – Quick Strategies for Staying Present

How to Be Present in the Moment
Click on the image to see a full infographic (opens in new tab)

We’ve learned how to use tech, personalization, and decision-making pauses to be present in the moment. Now, let’s explore three simple techniques to help you stay grounded throughout your busy day.

Box Breathing: Calm Before the Inbox Storm

Box breathing balances your nervous system for better focus. Here’s how to do it:

  • The Technique: Inhale (count of 4), hold (count of 4), exhale (count of 4), hold (count of 4). Repeat.
  • When to Use It: Do a few rounds before checking your email. This centers you for whatever awaits.
  • The Effect: Box breathing reduces stress and helps you respond to your inbox with clarity, not reactivity.

Nature at Your Desk: A 2-Minute Window Recharge

Can’t escape to the woods? Bring the outdoors to you:

  • The Practice: Look out your window for two minutes. Focus on trees, the sky, and anything natural you can see. No window? A nature photo or screensaver works, too!
  • Mindful Observation: Notice colors, textures, and how things move. This brief dose of nature helps you find calm and focus.
  • The Benefits: Studies show even small glimpses of nature reduce stress and boost your mood, making you more productive!

Rituals for Resetting: Create Mindful Touchpoints

Simple rituals act as personal “pause” buttons throughout your day. Here’s how:

  • Crafting Your Ritual: Pick something simple – brewing tea, a quick stretch, or lighting a non-scented candle (be mindful of office safety!). Consistency is key.
  • Integration: Do your ritual at specific times – like before starting a new task. This marks a mental shift.
  • The Outcome: Rituals give you anchors of presence. They break up your day in healthy ways and improve focus.

How to Put It Together?

To integrate these strategies into your daily routine, consider their purpose and effect on your well-being.

  • Scheduling: Allocate specific times in your calendar for these practices, treating them with the same importance as meetings or deadlines.
  • Adaptability: Be open to adapting these strategies to fit your personal needs and the demands of your day. Flexibility is key to maintaining consistency in your mindfulness practice.
  • Reflection: Regularly reflect on the effectiveness of each strategy in helping you stay present. Adjust as necessary to find the right mix that keeps you centered, focused, and fully engaged at the moment.

The Impact

Reduced stress, better mood, and improved productivity. Rituals and nature engagement offer quick, effective ways to refocus and stay grounded.

Fifth Strategy – Energizing Your Day with Micro-Movements

How to Be Present in the Moment
Click on the image to see a full infographic (opens in new tab)

In a world where being constantly mentally engaged is the norm, micro-movements offer a refreshing path to mindfulness and presence. This approach involves integrating brief, straightforward physical activities into your daily routine, designed to be executed anywhere, anytime, within minutes. 

The essence of micro-movements lies in their simplicity and the immediate connection they foster between mind and body, steering your focus away from distractions towards the physical sensations of the moment.

Activating Body Awareness Through Stretching

  • Simple Stretches: Initiate with soft stretches that target various body parts. Extend your arms, elongate your legs, or gently rotate your torso. Pay close attention to the sensation each stretch evokes, especially the easing of tension.

Synchronized Breath and Movement

  • Breathing Exercises: Combine deep, deliberate breaths with straightforward movements such as raising your arms or rolling your shoulders. Inhale while lifting, exhale on lowering. This harmony of breath with motion significantly bolsters concentration and presence.

Facial Engagement for Mindfulness

  • Express Yourself: Work your facial muscles by adopting different expressions—smile, scowl, lift your eyebrows. Feel the effects of these movements across your face, a unique method for snapping back to the present.

Hand and Finger Movements

  • Fine Motor Skills: Engage in minor actions like finger tapping, hand squeezing, or wrist rotating. These are especially beneficial for those who type or write frequently, grounding you effectively.

Posture for Presence

  • Adjust Your Stance: Make it a point to enhance your posture periodically. Straighten up, broaden your chest, and take a deep inhalation. Proper posture instantly heightens alertness and connection with your environment.

Integration into Daily Life

  • Desk Breaks: Integrate these micro-movements into your breaks when working at a desk. They can serve as a physical and mental reset.
  • Morning Routine: Incorporate a series of micro-movements into your morning routine to awaken your body and mind.
  • Stress Relief: Use these movements as a quick stress-relief tool, especially in high-tension moments.

Making It a Habit

Set regular intervals throughout your day for micro-movement breaks. These can be brief pauses between tasks, serving as both a physical exercise and a mindfulness practice. Over time, you’ll notice an enhanced ability to stay present, grounded, and physically energized.

These strategies take mere minutes yet powerfully increase mindfulness. Think of them as tools to combat stress, make better decisions, and simply enjoy the present moment more, even in the most hectic workday.

The Benefits

This strategy not only helps reduce physical tension and improve circulation but also significantly boosts mental clarity by breaking the cycle of continuous thought and bringing attention to the present. It’s an excellent way to invigorate your body and refresh your mind, making it easier to focus on the here and now.

Final Thoughts: Mindfulness for the Busy Professional

We’ve seen that learning how to be present in the moment doesn’t require hours of meditation. Small, strategic practices can transform even the most hectic workday.

Mindfulness is about being fully here, now, without judgment. Busy professionals need this! It brings calm and clarity and helps you bounce back from stress faster. 

The strategies we discussed – using tech wisely, personalizing your practice, and those pre-decision pauses – make mindfulness accessible even when life feels like a whirlwind.

The Ripple Effect

These five-minute fixes aren’t just about you. Mindful leaders create mindful workplaces that are more focused, empathetic, and resilient. Think of how pausing to breathe together before a major meeting changes the entire energy of the room!

Mindfulness is a journey. It takes consistent practice to train your brain to truly be present in the moment. Those five-minute fixes are your training wheels. And don’t be afraid of a little humor along the way! 

When your coworkers see you taking a deep whiff of your coffee before a meeting, it might raise a smile. Explain what you’re doing – they might want to join in.

Your Next Steps

Every moment is a chance to practice how to be present in the moment – even while checking emails or just walking down the hall. Mindfulness can be playful!

It’s about finding what works for you. Keep trying different things until you have a set of quick mindful practices that help you refocus and de-stress.

Embracing mindfulness isn’t just about surviving your busy schedule; it’s about thriving in it. You can use mindfulness to navigate work’s challenges with clarity, calm, and even a bit of humor.

Time to test your knowledge! Take a few minutes to tackle this quiz and discover how well you’ve mastered the concepts from this article.

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being present quiz

Being Present

Test your Knowledge of How to Be Present in the Moment.

1 / 10

What does being present mean?

2 / 10

How can mindfulness apps help you?

3 / 10

What is the first step in personalizing your breathing exercise?

4 / 10

What is a simple gratitude practice mentioned in the post?

5 / 10

Which sensory focus exercise is recommended?

6 / 10

What should you do before making a big decision?

7 / 10

How can box breathing help you?

8 / 10

What is a quick way to engage with nature?

9 / 10

How can simple daily rituals help you stay present?

10 / 10

What is the benefit of micro-movements?

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