I was trying to focus on my 2008 goals; it’s been tough going and my mind kept moving to all the other things I could/should be doing right now. And the idea for this blog came to me. A self inflicted distraction.
I have a lot of them.
My office is in my home – a source of advantage and challenge. Home offices make self inflicted distractions so much easier to acquire. As the year goes by, more and more shoulda’s, woulda’s and coulda’s accumulate in my workspace. You know what I mean – the magazines that need to be read, the books purchased and waiting for attention, the projects that call for completion, the hobbies and interests that never seem to get the attention you’d like to give them. In my case, the fly rod in the corner, just aching to be tried out – the fly tying materials all ready for me to tie some flies.
You know, all the this’s and that’s that scream out for some attention. And shred our ability to focus on the important few things – and we did it to ourselves.
These distractions make it so easy to start one thing, and then, because it’s not going particularly well, turn to one of the other things that ache for attention. The net effect of this scattergun of actions is that nothing gets done well – the operative word being “well.” Multi – taskers may argue and say the more you heap on your plate the more you will get done. That doesn’t work for me.
So, what to do about this all too common drain on our resources?
Here’s my list of actions to take to reduce the number of self inflicted distractions:
First and foremost, you gotta have the most important three to five things in your whole world identified. If you don’t, start with that.
Then survey your space – start with the mindset that anything in that workspace that keeps you from achieving your top three to five goals is your enemy – and needs to be destroyed – or at least covered up.
Keep your workspace your workspace. Compartmentalize. Keep work stuff in work areas. Keep non – work stuff somewhere else – far enough away that it requires an effort to get to it. ( I really need to move that fly rod and my fly tying desk to another room.)
Inventory the stuff that comes in to your workspace – the publications, the E Mail subscriptions, the catalogs, the course descriptions, the fyi’s from well meaning associates, the stuff that accumulates under the “nice to do” label. Then throw it all out. Face it – if you have to put it aside for any extended period of time, you’re not going to get to it. Except — when you should be really focusing on the truly important few, and they’re not going well – and it’s so tempting to tell yourself it’s time to take a break and read that article you’ve been meaning to get to for the last six months. Let’s see, where is that magazine?
Limit the number of pictures, symbols, artifacts that have the potential to take your mind away from work – and put you back on that sailboat, or putting for an eagle, or winning the “B” group tennis tournament at the club. Keep the few – and I mean few – things that serve as reminders and focus points about your purpose. Things that can bring your mind back to the reason for the work at hand – things that serve to remind you of why you need to focus on the important few.
Inventory your subscriptions – are they valuable in the present. at work and play, or are they substitutions for the things you want to do, but can’t find the time or means to do. Ditch all except for one that can be seen as providing motivation for the reward you’ll earn by focusing on the important few.
Hide the little stuff. If you’re like me, I can spend an afternoon making sure everything is well organized – at least all the things I can see. I tend to do this when things aren’t going well on the important things. Hide the little stuff – it’s not that important anyway.
Create the belief that focus creates success – and treat the enemies of focus as – well – enemies. Create the conviction that an hour on focused work on the most important thing is more valuable and effective than a day committed to the completion of thin things. Become convinced of the power of your mind when you use it to really drill into something – it’s the most valuable resource you have.
If you have a workspace with a view – terrific. Just set it up so that your line of sight when you are working is not toward the view. You know, see the pretty little bird in the bush – look at the awesome sunset – look at the beautiful clouds —–
Put your three to five top things in writing, and hang/post/frame/wallpaper them where they are constant reminders of what you really gotta spend your time on.
That’s my list. Any more than this and I will have created some additional self inflicted distractions – or SID’s. Take a look at and identify your own enemies of focus – the things you have done to yourself that keep the power of your focus from reaching its potential. And then act to take back your space.