HAVE YOU ever walked into a meeting late, because of heavy traffic en route, and been unable to concentrate on the discussion at hand right away?

Does a part of you want to focus on the work while another part of you is still anxious, stressed and testy about the traffic conditions you experienced?

Or, at times, have you tried to pitch a presentation to an important customer behind a large desk who is signing papers, taking calls, punching his keyboard, sipping coffee while politely asking you to keep on talking. He claims he can multi-task and is listening to you but at the end of your pitch you still feel let down.

Meeting maladies similar to these can be resolved by understanding, in depth, a principle of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), which states: "At any given moment, our conscious mind, can only hold and juggle with seven plus or minus two chunks of thoughts."

NLP, as most people use the term today, is a set of models of how communication impacts and is impacted by subjective experience.

For example, while driving through traffic, you are intensely navigating, formulating an explanation for your tardiness, reviewing your planned presentation, pondering upon discussions or activities you may have concluded earlier, reading your messages on your phone, planning the evening, regretting not having eaten a healthy breakfast, thinking of the family, and so on.

All this is hyper-mental activity. And, some of the areas that you reactively think about can be switched off to calm yourself and focus on what is crucial. Just like a computer, the desktop of your mind can be faster and more efficient if it is running fewer applications at a given moment.

Your obvious question would be: "How do I do this?"

First, you need to become conscious of the fact that you are operating in a hyper mode. Next, zero in on your breathing and focus on it.

A few minutes of focusing on your breathing will shut down several less important issues on the desktop of your mind. If your mind wants to react to other non-crucial stimuli, stop and go back to focusing on your breathing. In the long term, practice will make your effort perfect.

How do you handle the customer behind the large desk, who wants you to go on talking when you know he is running in a hyper-mode and may not be giving you all his attention?

Stop speaking, slow down your presentation, deliberate on your pauses, and politely ask him to finish signing the papers or answer that e-mail on his desktop. Ask him non-probing questions about the biggest chunk of thoughts he may be juggling on the desktop of his mind. Do or say anything that you feel will help him switch off some of the activities and give you better attention.

A word of caution: Do this tactfully because you do not want to embarrass your client or make him feel as though he has been rude.

Gaining control of situations is an exercise of your leadership abilities. It is about understanding and managing the subjective state rather than just what is on the surface. Practice these methods and you will find yourself achieving a lot more in half the time and at half the cost.