Get Simple and Focus on What Matters Most
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. -Martin Luther King, Jr.
True focus requires getting lost. For great clarity, get lost in your work, in love, or in anything at all that deserves your attention. When you have the ability to get lost in conversation, a new project or interest, you can fully engage and discover what matters most. What matters most changes over time and as you move from one thing to another. Spending too much time in the transition of one thing to another can dilute your attention.
You may be a professional multi-tasker but you can work more efficiently and love more deeply with great focus. With focus, you have an opportunity to observe and act accordingly instead of trying to sustain reactionary workflow. If you spend your day only doing what needs to get done, you probably haven’t come up for air lately. It may be time for a change in schedule or a change of heart.
How to Fix Your Loss of Focus
Lack of Priority
When you have too much to do or too many ideas to choose from, it’s hard to determine what comes first. You will find focus when you can discern what demands your attention and what deserves your attention. The demand can wait, the deserve cannot. Understand that better by simply asking the question. When something distracts you or pulls you away, ask yourself, “demand or deserve?” and then act accordingly.
When I was away recently, I was completely disconnected. There was no wifi or bars on my phone. I couldn’t make a call, take a call, check email or text messages. I survived and thrived. Back in the day, we couldn’t answer the home phone during dinner, and today, it’s not uncommon to see phones sitting on the dinner table. Phones have become our biggest distraction and the easiest to remedy. Turn them off when you are doing something that deserves your attention.
If you have babies or toddlers or children of any age, they may prevent you from focusing on other things. Look for small windows of time to devote to other projects and then surrender and give your little loves all of your focus and attention. They always deserve you and you deserve them right back. My little love left for college in August and I want you to know that all of the other stuff can wait.
Fear and Worry
When we are overwhelmed, fear and worry hang out and distract us from focusing on one thing. While we are trying to accomplish one little thing, we worry about all of the things left undone and fear that we will never accomplish anything. This is a result of future-thinking and can be remedied by being in the moment. If that whole Zen idea seems completely foreign to you, set a timer for 20 minutes and commit to the task at hand. If 20 minutes is too long, try 10. When the timer rings you can get back to fear and worry. It will wait. Practice increasing your time for being in the moment a little bit each day.
Like it or not, email is part of our work and life. It’s a simple way to connect with people, but can get overwhelming and distracting. I love email and give it the attention it deserves with the triage approach. Everyday, I go through email and handle it as a triage unit might treat an incoming trauma. I save the least urgent for 1 or 2 days a week and respond to all of it then. The time sensitive email receives a short, direct response. I send it with love and good intentions as I transfer the important information without pomp and circumstance.
When you don’t like what you do, or love who you are with, focus becomes increasingly challenging. A change may be in order, but a hard stop might not be an option. In the meantime, be grateful. Make a tiny list everyday of things that make you smile and warm your heart. Even when things are bad, there is always something that deserves your gratitude. Do something you love. Add something lovely to your life while you try to figure things out. Try a photography class, bake cookies, read a book, or go for a bike ride. Make your own prescription for happiness in the midst of discontent.
Overwhelm and Overload
It’s time to admit and embrace that you can’t do it all. Instead of getting through, catching up or hanging on, give up on the things that don’t really matter. Less is the answer. If you want to stop rearranging, rescheduling and reorganizing, own less and do less.
Finding focus requires giving up, slowing down and getting exactly what you deserve.