Focus on Focusing and Feel Fantastic!

I am sitting here at home on this wet, grey December Monday morning, feeling a little unfocused.  This is ironic, given that I really want to write about mental energy and how focusing mentally can help us manage our mental energy.  However, as I write this I realize, maybe this is just what I need! This challenge:  to give myself permission sit and write this post until it is done, or 90 minutes passes, whichever comes first.     No distractions allowed, unless there is an emergency…So here I go, I am closing my email….ignoring my phone (unless it’s one of the three kids schools!)….And, I begin…

If you want to get really good and important work done in less time, feel the satisfaction of this accomplishment, and find you are energized for the rest of your day,  I encourage you to read this post and try this process right away.  When I refer to “mental energy”, I am talking about our level of mental alertness and our ability to maximize, control and focus that alertness on completing specific task.    This is single-minded focus, not multi-tasking.  Not quickly checking an email that popped in and getting back to the work.  Not reacting to remembering a little task that has to be done but is not an emergency.  This is proactive, intentional stuff.    It is about giving ourselves the freedom to make the room to focus on what’s important today.    It does take some planning and some pro-activity. It does highlight the fact that we do have much responsibility for how we can structure our days, and our lives.    As Bill Baren, a well respected time mastery coach says,  be 100% committed to whatever we are doing.  Anything less is not worth it.  Do something else instead then.  Susan Jeffers, of Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, offers a similar perspective, when she introduces  the “magic duo”: realizing that everything we do matters and that we should strive to be 100% committed to whatever it is we have chosen to do.  Finally, it’s consistent with the idea of putting the big rocks in first.

Those of you you have read my earlier posts know that I have a tendency to try to multi-task.  It works for me sometimes, but I have realized I can be and do better.   A few months ago I came across this blog post by Tony Schwartz, one of the authors of The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy Not Time is the Key to High Performance and Personal Effectiveness.  (This is the book which has inspired this series of posts I have been making on managing energy not time.)   In his post, Tony Schwartz suggests a certain process for focusing, which has worked very very well for him.  I decided to try too and I can tell you definitively that it does work, even for a die-hard multi-tasker like me!

I should say that your ability to focus, when you have decided to focus, will also be helped if you have been managing the other energy muscles as well (see my past blog posts about these).  For example, if you haven’t been sleeping well lately, it’s going to be harder.  However, try anyway.  It will be better than feeling unfocused and distracted all day, and getting some good work done may just help you sleep better tonight.   If you are ruminating over the latest miscommunication with that difficult person in your life, focusing on your work could be a good break for your emotional muscles.  Finally,  I recognize that this process won’t work for those of you whose work is, by its nature, wholly reactive work, such as being an emergency physician.  However, I am sure there is another aspect of your life in which you could apply it.  So, if I may be so bold….there are no excuses…give this a try!

Do you want to feel more focused and energized in your work? If you do,  I invite you to try this process.  I expect you will love it!


Here’s the Process:

1 -Take 5 minutes this evening to reflect and decide what the biggest priority is for tomorrow (remember to include important but not urgent items); Ask: “what is the big priority that needs my focus?”

2- Plan a specific time tomorrow when you will focus solely on this priority.  Make it as early in the day as possible. Visualize it happening, if you can.  Plan to become the laser beam in the photo!  Remind yourself how satisfied you are going to feel once you have completed the work.  Allow yourself 90 minutes, which is the maximum amount of time we can focus on any one thing effectively without a break.   If 90 minutes is impossible, at least 45 minutes will be effective.

3 – Next day,  find a place where you can concentrate, close all email, don’t answer the phone unless it’s an emergency and give yourself permission to focus on this particular priority; if you have an assistant, get his/her help with this; even book a boardroom where you can be alone and focus if that’s what it takes.

4 – Begin work on your priority;  focus on it solely, no exceptions.  Multi-taskers: this will be hard, but worth it!

5 – Finish the work or stop after 90 minutes, whichever comes first and take a well-deserved break.  More on breaks in a future post.  They are important!!!

6 – Be amazed and satisfied  at what you accomplished and have that feeling carry into the rest of your day and energize you!  Focus on focusing and feel fantastic!

7 – Do it all over again starting tonight.  Try this for a week, as Tony suggests, and do come back and report to us on it.

How has it worked for you?  Please leave a comment below.

If you already follow a process like this, I would love to know how it compares and how it works for you.  Please leave a comment and share your wisdom with the rest of us!

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