Image credit Josh Calabrese
So you’ve decided that 2018 is YOUR year. It’s your year to do x, y and z. Your year to make the changes you’ve been longing to make, to get your dream job, to run your first marathon, to pursue your life long wish to breed bunnies. Whatever it is that you want to do in 2018 you will need a big helping hand from FOCUS.
For the past few years I’ve chosen a word for my year. The word represents a kind of theme that I want to carry with me through the year. Last year I chose the word CREATE because I felt an all-consuming desire to create. Sick and tired of consumption I knew it was my year to lay down pride and fear and get my hands dirty creating. This year my word is FOCUS.
Last year, after quitting my dream job, I allowed myself space to explore and create. And while that was brilliant and it helped me work through some grief and exhaustion, it also left me feeling like I was juggling loads of balls again at the end of the year. I hadn’t slipped back into over-commitment (I’ve refined the art of saying no quite well), and these things weren’t big things. But there were too many of them.
And having too many things going on (big or small) usually means one or 10 balls get dropped and you wind up feeling very dissatisfied.
Being unfocused not only leaves us unsatisfied but it also affects our productivity and reduces the chances of us realizing our dreams.
What to focus on?
You may already know the thing you want to do this year, the thing you need to bring your attention and focus to. But many times we don’t. We’ve simply gone down too many rabbit holes and explored too many warrens and are overwhelmed with possibilities and decisions.
Authors Garry Keller and Jay Papasan have written about the importance of focusing on ONE THING in their bestselling book aptly titled, The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. The premise of the book is to figure out what is the one thing you can do that aligns with your purpose and by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary. They expose the myth behind multitasking and encourage readers to make ONE small change in each area of their lives.
Perhaps you want to pay off some debt that you have this year. There are multiple ways you could approach this goal. You could put the brakes on your spending, go on a shopping ban, or you could focus on earning more money. There are lots of different methods out there, and you could easily get caught up researching which one to follow, or even try a few different methods. But if you pick ONE method to focus on then you’ll likely get to your goal faster and easier than if you take a bit from each method and try them all at once.
I want to write a book this year. And I’m telling you, there are literally hundreds of different methods for how to write a book. In the last six months of gone down countless rabbit holes on the internet looking at different approaches – only to end up swamped in contradictory ideas, and an overflowing inbox after signing up for instant access to this and that…
Image credit Patrick Fore
There is only one way the book will get written, regardless of which method or approach, regardless of muse or big magic. It will get written by me writing. Simple. ONE THING. So this year I’m committing to writing a minimum of 500 words a day. Regardless of whether is specifically for the book or if it’s for the blog or a paid gig, it’s a focus on something that aligns with my purpose and will make the writing of the book easier, even it it’s simply because i’m getting loads of practice!
How to focus?
So once you’ve figured out the one thing you want to focus on – like for me, writing at least 500 words a day – you might need to put some thought into how to focus. If, like me, you spent the first 30 something years multi tasking (which is nowhere near as superhuman as it sounds and is actually just task switching) then you might just find that your brain is now wired for distraction.
Many of my ‘writing’ days or times have gone like this:
Open up a google doc and start writing
Facebook notification pops up
switch tabs just in case I missed anything in the notification pop up
while i’m there refresh my feed – just in case
Back to writing, must focus!
Opps what was it I needed for dinner tonight?
Check the pinterest recipe and 30 mins later, after falling down several pinterest rabbit holes…
back to writing
repeat as many times as necessary before finally admitting defeat.
It’s exhausting just writing about it!
So, to get my minimum quota for the day done, here are some of the strategies I’m employing. And they don’t just apply to writing. I think you can apply them anywhere you need to knuckle down and focus on something.
- Ditch the social media. Even if you don’t think you have a problem with it. When you are working on something you need to concentrate on call upon the help of an app like Forest App. I’ve just installed this on my phone. When I start my 500 words, I plant a tree. If I leave the app, the tree dies. (The irony of using technology to aid a problem with technology is not lost on me. But i’ll try anything!)
- Start your day by focusing on your breathing. Begin with just 3 breaths, in and out, noticing only your breath. It’s hard, your mind will wander, that’s OK. Keep going. Taking a big belly breath is one of the most delicious things you can do. Focusing on your breath will help you keep focused in other areas.
- Go small. (I’ve said this before but it bears repeating) Decide to focus for just 5 minutes at first. For me, 500 words isn’t much at all. It’s only about half the length of this post. But i’ll commit to that because I know that even some days that will be hard. Maybe you want to focus on connecting more with your kids? Can you spend five uninterrupted minutes a day with them? Sounds so small, but if you can do that 5 minutes a day it will pave the way for more.
Take a moment to imagine what you could do if you had just 10% more focus in your life. And then do something to make that 10% (and your dream) reality.