“I bought a seven-dollar pen because I always lose pens and I got sick of not caring.” ~Mitch Hedberg

Rusty KeysWhere are those car keys? Why can’t I find my cell phone? I just had that twenty dollar bill this morning…

These are the cliche (or not so cliche) things people are losing all the time. But business too is full of lost things: lost sales, lost employees, and lost opportunities. This pattern of losing things cascades throughout business and throughout life. So let’s examine the fundamentals about finding what is lost and how things get lost in the first place.

Hide and Go Seek

Many people click into a pattern when they realize something is “lost”. They make the same patterned excuses. Even the terminology they use points to a skewed perspective. They say, “My wallet is lost.” What, it wandered off and couldn’t find its way home? Ever so occasionally someone moved your wallet and even less occasionally someone took it. But ninety-nine percent of the time, it is precisely where you left it. And where were you at the time? Nowhere, anywhere, but not there.

So the first step they take is to look in all the usual places: the dresser top, the glove box, the jacket pocket. This isn’t a half bad approach. If you lose a bid, for instance, it is good to see if there are any similarities to past lost bids. Of course this examination would be better done in advance. Stubbornly ignoring patterns can get disruptive and costly.

The problem with this approach of “sweep and clear” is it skips a useful and powerful step. That step is to get present. Just tuning your awareness to your last encounter with your keys can give you a picture of where they are. You can then skip the “usual places” search and go straight to the most likely place.

Now let’s apply awareness to the loss of something like a customer. Doing a post mortem can reveal where things started heading south. Frequently you can key right in to the turning point. Recognition of that moment often leads to solutions for future avoidance of such a scenario.

Hiding In Plain Sight

When you find your coffee cup after a diligent search, it is good to consider that it was always right there. Your search didn’t materialize it, it uncovered it. This is a useful concept to consider because it demonstrates how powerful our awareness is. Without awareness, even that which exists vanishes from our sight.

How much are you not seeing that is right there? Are you missing that a key employee is feeling unfulfilled in her job? Are you unaware of a prospect who is looking for exactly what you offer? Are you blocked from noticing that you are out of compliance on some key regulation impacting your business? It is good to note that you are not blind, you can see it, you just aren’t.

Awareness is a choice. It is a matter of treating something with greater respect. If you just throw things on your desk, it’s no surprise you can’t find them later. But if you take a moment to give each thing the respect it merits, finding things later is no problem.

Specifically giving awareness to where you set down your danish when nothing else is going on isn’t difficult. But we don’t usually have the luxury of only having one input going at a time. That late sales report is more important that your danish after all. So how can you give things the proper awareness, neither too little nor too much?

What’s Better Than Finding Something You’ve Lost?

Not losing it in the first place.

The simplest way to do this is to create a memory. It takes virtually no time and just a smidgen of presence to take note when you set down your danish. Yes, you are headed straight into knocking out that sales report. But this stuff must happen in series, not parallel. Make an association: “It’s next to my laptop.” That’s it, move on.

This approach does demand that you break your train of thought for a moment though. It is a commitment that is worth the effort if you find you spend a lot of your time in search mode. But if you find such a commitment to be just too annoying, there is something else you can do. It’s even simpler and requires even less presence: Create a pattern. That is, always put your danish next to your laptop. Never set it on the credenza or put it on the side table.

Have a place for your favorite putter, your lucky pen, and your best cologne. The key word here is “a”. The fewer the possibilities, the better. Develop the sense that whatever it is you want to keep track of is in “danger” if you put it anywhere else. You may need to have an “at home” place, an “in the car” place and an “in the office” place. That’s fine, just reduce the acceptable locations.

We have all created a lifetime’s worth of patterns. Perhaps the reason you are reluctant to embrace adding more is you have too many already. But patterns are as easily discarded as they are created. So make some room for some new inventory if you find you are being taxed by constant losing and (sometimes) finding.

“What’s better than finding something you’ve lost?” click to tweet

Start with one thing. Pick one that pops up frequently (you keep losing business cards) or one that is particularly important (losing signed contracts). Create a pattern or create a memory. Once you have it internalized, move on to another. Soon you will find the episodes of frustrating searches at inopportune moments have lessened. You will never go wrong by upping your awareness.

Things will still get lost occasionally. But once again, presence will come to your rescue. You are not seeking perfection here, just functionality. You can do without the endorphin rush that comes from finding the things you constantly lose. The peace of being present is ten times better.

What did you learn? Tell us about it by commenting below.

Photo credit: Carol Rowe

Finding, Losing, and Knowing What’s Going On
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