For Day 2 of my October journaling exercise, I got this fairly deep prompt.
“What distracts you from focusing on what’s important?”
When I think of this question, I have to first think of what is important to me. In the morning today, I got a call from a company that wanted me to join as their VP at a salary that made me start spinning visions of all the countries I could visit on a whim. For a while, I almost considered it before the ennui of performance appraisal meetings, 2-hour-long daily commutes, and the pressure of seeking someone else’s approval for my own vacation broke me down. Temptation stayed away. Sanity reigned.
But what is important to me? I don’t have one answer to that. My family is important to me – spending time with them is important. My business is important to me. My writing is important to me. Traveling is important to me.
Am I focusing on all that is important?
The answer is no. Focus, by definition, implies something that you single-mindedly pursue. I am trying to spread my net as far wide as possible with the result that I am not focusing on anything right now. I think, for now, I have to narrow on one thing: my business. Let me focus on that till the end of the year.
So what’s stopping me from focusing 100% on Trippin Traveller?
1. My consulting work
3. Sheer lethargy and laziness
4. The inexplicable mindlessness of my life
5. The inexplicable dissolute wanderings of my mind
Point 1 is quite temporary. Point 2 is permanent. It is Point 3, 4, and 5 that I have complete control over. How can we achieve focus?
Stop multi-tasking – Study after study has shown that multi-tasking makes us less productive at the end of the day. My maniacal mind has to listen.
Focus on little tasks – We can’t do 100 things in a day. But we can do 1 thing very well. And then we can do 5 very well. The mind is a muscle that can be trained. But it is not a dumping ground for our frustrations and impossible wishes.
Use the Pomodoro technique – I used to use the Pomodoro technique before stopping it this year. I need to resume it. There is nothing else that can give you razor-sharp focus more than 20-minute work intervals. I remember I got a lot of my reading done during the 5-minute breaks!
Give in to the melancholy – I am a brooder and not the sort to “let go” easily. Things that bother me stay bothered for a while. But I know that fighting it is not the answer. Too often, we need to stay with the feelings that give us discomfort – for the path of realization of our self does not come from avoidance but from acceptance.
Learn to be gentle on myself – There is no more ruthless perfectionist than me. But I have to learn that I am human. I will make mistakes. I will learn. I made a mistake in a customer’s name in the air ticket, and I berated myself endlessly. How much time wasted!
As I write this, I feel that sometimes it is also important to be un-focused. I have an app that gives photos taken on the phone an ‘illusion’ effect. When we remember that this life itself is an illusion, the impermanence of it all scares me. Those are the times I wonder if focus can’t be replaced by flow?