How Eating Crabs Builds Presence


The more outrageous things become in Washington, the more I find myself looking at my phone every few minutes to keep up to date. But even for those of you less engrossed in the day’s politics, the truth is that the obsession with checking our phones is not a recent phenomenon. The constant access to information about world events and about the people in our social circles is powerful and addicting. But having phone in hand also means that I am less focused on whatever else I’m doing. Multitasking makes you worse at both tasks, particularly when one of those tasks involves looking someone else in the eye.

Here are some ideas on how to put down the phone and focus in on the task at hand:

1. Designate a phone box. This is a technique that I use during corporate client meetings (and often during family dinners). Before the meeting starts, I give clients the choice to keep their phones with them and not check them, or to simply put it in a box to be re-distributed at the end of the meeting. 90% of people hand over their phones. People want to be engaged and focused. Engagement and presence lead to more in-depth conversations, clearer guidance and strategies, and more productive and fulfilling meetings. Sometimes a little separation goes a long way.


2. Keep your hands busy. I like to think of this one as the “Crab decision making method,” because when your hands are full of messy (and yummy!) crab, you have a delicious barrier to distraction (at least of the smartphone variety). Some of my best conversations and biggest decisions (including whether to buy a house!) have occurred over a crab dinner, but you can use this method even if you hate seafood. Messy meals are always a good idea, but so are other menial, non-thinking tasks. Washing the dishes, playing with clay, or cooking a meal will keep your hands away from the phone, and can inspire more focus with the people around you.

3. Get off the grid. It’s increasingly more difficult to find places without a wifi signal, but they can definitely still be found. Take an afternoon to go hiking in a new place and commit to following the trail blazes and not google maps; or leave your phone in your bedroom while you bury yourself in a book on the couch. The value of being focused and present can far outweigh the thrill of catching breaking news. Without question, the news will still be there for you when you’re ready. 

Have any favorite tips or tricks for leaving your phone behind? Please share! We’d love to hear them.

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Lauren Laitin