Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sharpen your focus

Dull blades don't cut well

Do you ever wake up early in the morning to get an early start on something? Be it work or travel or cooking? Getting a head start helps you pace yourself so that time doesn’t become a stressor, and your day unfolds a little easier. Or perhaps you’re more of a night owl, and you prefer to stay up late the night before something needs to be done, so that you can sleep easier knowing everything is finished. Whichever your preference, I’m wondering if you enjoy it?

I ask because productive people have different styles of being productive, and I think that says a lot about personality and lifestyle. I also think that as responsible people, it’s important that we try different methods to see what works for us. When it comes to work, we owe it to ourselves to learn the ins and outs of how we’re most economical and most effective. Knowing that about yourself makes you that much more dangerous not only in your personal life, but in the workplace as well i.e. you understand how to produce quality consistently.

For instance, I love working in the morning. I like to get a head start as early as possible, before the world wakes up (if I can manage the ambition to crawl over a snoring, six-pound dog, who insists on taking up 2/3 of the bed every night by lying on the outside edge which leaves me pinned against the wall). The morning is perfect for me because it allows me to fly under the radar. I can get a lot done early, so that I have a certain amount finished that I can rest on for the remainder of the day.

What’s important is that you find inactive time. Time when you’re not distracted; when nobody is trying to get your attention, and nothing else is happening. Time when you can believe that nothing else exists other than this one, singular focus in front of you. It’s beautiful, really - the serenity of focus.

Focus can be used as power. Power to achieve, power to finish, to complete, to elaborate, to be careful, thoughtful, and sincere. Focus can be cultivated by the virtue of patience. Patience takes practice, practice and breathing. Practicing patience and breathing leads to a clear heart and open eyes, which I like to think of as prioritizing, or focus. I’m starting to confuse myself.

What I’m getting at is that you need to allow yourself time. Allow yourself space to let go of all the duties that clutter your decision making and soon the decision becomes quite clear. No matter what our modern world tells us, we can only do one thing at a time. Multitasking does not exist - please, people, stop trying to force it. Perhaps this leads us to get less done, or that’s the worry – “How will I finish everything on time?!” You will, if you stop, and you focus on the most important thing first. And after you do this a few times, you’ll begin to allow yourself to take on a few less things, a few less frivolous duties that don’t really matter. You will learn to say ‘no.’

When you start to focus on the top priority first, sometimes you discover that you can only get so far towards its end before you hit a roadblock. You’re missing assets; you have too many liabilities, etc. Now that you’re focusing on it though, you can see your next step. You can see what needs to be done next to get to that end, even if moving forward means going back to the drawing board, collecting more research, or even starting over – you’re moving.

I wanted to bring up focus and productivity this week because we’re in the midst of the holiday season. Many of us are trying to get an awful lot accomplished before we enjoy some time off with loved ones, and for some people, the stress accrued at this time of year can reach the breaking point. Now, I’m a proponent of hard work because it makes me feel good. I relish conquering mountains of work, I hate saying no, I always want to help, and I have countless projects I want to finish on the side.

My plan to get through these things is to sharpen my focus like I would a dull knife, because after a while the blade gets worn down and it needs some attention - you can feel it when you try to cut with it. Take care of your tools, sharpen when necessary.

“I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time.” - Charles Dickens

See you out there,
A woodsman in training.

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