For the new year, my friend asked me to think of one word I want to be or do for 2017, she received the idea from Oneword365days.com. Although I was over the growing trend of internet challenges, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to come up with one word. It took some time, but after much thought, the word focus seemed perfect.
This one-word challenge put me on a personal development journey. I began to value the importance of being present with the people and or things that are important to me. It helped me to give my undivided attention to important things, like my writing.
So, what does giving my writing undivided attention looks like? Well, I plan time to write, two hours after work, four hours on my days off. I also plan what I am going to write about, my book, newsletter, journal, article, etcetera. Once I am faithful to the plan, the next step is to focus, this is the challenging part. There’s always distractions, the phone, pets, family, and my favorite, my thoughts.
I’ve learned to limit my distractions. I turned off the TV, turned down the volume on my phone, and I even placed my phone where I can’t see the notifications. When my husband’s home, I tell him I need quiet time to write. If need be, I lock myself in the guest room away from everything. When my mind starts to drift, I bring it back to the task at hand by saying out loud, “let’s get this done first.” A little trick I learned from the book, “Deep Work,” by Cal Newport. A great book to read if you’re learning how to focus in a world of distractions.
It’s not easy. Let’s face it, we are in a society that promotes multitasking as a powerful tool and a must have skill. There’s no job I’ve worked for where the boss didn’t ask me if I am able to multitask. Focusing on one thing at a time is a unique skill, that’s rarely celebrated, but when it’s done, it’s worth it.
I remember when I first pushed myself to focus. The plan was to do house chores, reading and writing. I planned the day, then got to work. I set my phone alarm to go off when it was time to stop working. I knew I was on to something when in one hour I wrote 1,408 words. I was so impressed with the results, “focus” became the word I wanted to become for 2017.
With that said, I would be lying if I didn’t say focusing is hard as hell. Some days I am super proud of myself. I get through my to-do list with time to spare. That’s a big deal, for someone who usually wondering where the time goes. But then there are days where I can’t believe I let time slip away. That’s when I revert to my old ways of multitasking, which feels almost sinful. Because the reality is when I am focused I do a better job.
I googled the word “multitasking,” and found a slew of reasons why it’s not a good practice. Of course, there’s always exceptions to the rule. The New Yorker published “Multitask Masters,” by Maria Konnikova, in 2014. The article gives a peek into a rare study of people who actually did better when they had more to do. They called them “supertaskers.”
I’m no “supertasker.” I am a writer. And I would love to do it well, while loving my family, chores, paying bills, and keeping my wandering mind tamed. Getting focused seems like it’s putting me on the right track.