I thought I was awake. I was out of bed, dressed and attending an important meeting. Yet I was functionally asleep. My mind was wandering from the current discussion to things that happened in the past and then ahead to what my weekend would bring.

MindTools calls this waking sleep. It is the time of day when we appear to be productive, but we are not fully present. Amazingly, people spend as much as 70% of waking hours dwelling on the past or focused on the future.

Sometimes we’re just daydreaming, which in short bursts can have some positive effects, such as boosting productivity and creativity. Unfortunately, our wandering minds can also fixate on the negative. We ruminate about the past and worry too much about things we cannot control. Negative mental fantasies produce emotional and physical states that mimic real fear and worry – producing stress. Who needs more stress?

So how do you remain present for more of your waking hours?

Start simple. Start by remaining aware while you’re doing routine tasks. When you drink your morning coffee, only focus on that. Fold the laundry and notice how it smells, feels and looks.

Set a time goal. Start out with just a few minutes of mindful practice. Set a timer for 5 minutes on the first day and gradually add to your mindfulness time.

Replace negative thoughts. Instead of dwelling on the past and things you can’t control, spend time thinking about how you could do better next time. When you are thinking negative thoughts, replace them with ones like, “I have learned from my mistakes and have emerged stronger.”

Thích Nhất Hạnh said, “The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” That may seem like an exaggeration when you’re in your next meeting, but give it a try. You may be surprised at the value you derive from being completely awake.

Want to be more present and mindful? Contact Humanergy for training and coaching options.

Photo from iStockphoto.