We humans like to think we’re good at multi-tasking. It’s not as easy as that easy though. Splitting our focus splits our effectiveness. Maintaining complete focus does not require us to completely finish one project before we move onto the next. In fact, sometimes this can cause frustration and stagnation. What it requires is setting our mind on the task in front of us to do it to the best of our ability.
I am notorious for wanting to fill empty space with white noise and clutter to encourage myself to be busy. What this means in practice is spending an hour searching for the ‘right’ motivational musical playlist, watching half an hour of YouTube to get any thought of distraction out of the way before I start, having an extended snacking session to energise myself, leaving me only a few minutes to do the thing I set out to do in the first place! This is not the picture of productivity. This is me succumbing to the temptation of procrastination.
Recognising the problems I’m causing myself is the first step. If I want to be good at something I have to start things. And if I want to be really good at something I must finish things. When asked what is some advice he would offer aspiring writers Neil Gaiman said, “Whatever it takes to finish things, finish. You will learn more from a glorious failure than you ever will from something you never finish.” Many authors ascribe to this philosophy. For me, having this in mind is a good way to keep myself moving. I might not finish a particular piece of writing or a particular song right now, but I can certainly come back to it later. There is also no obligation for me to finish every project I start. Some aren’t worth it, and some I’ll realise I don’t care about enough. Readers and listeners are discerning and can tell when an creator’s heart just wasn’t in it.
Funnily enough, the reason I’m only getting around to publishing this blog today and not yesterday is that I got lost in the focus of one particular task. I sat down to do a little bit of manuscript maintenance and got completely carried away. It seems I am unable to out my novel to the side and let it marinate! I’m so invested in the story I keep sitting down, reading through, and editing the next section. What I’m not letting this do is use up my time and energy. Writing this story is good for my mental wellbeing. My physical, social, and spititual wellbeing are also important. I attended church in the morning and engaged in really fruitful conversation. I caught up with another friend I haven’t seen for a few months for lunch. After which the book editing took over. I did, however, remember to take regular ten minute breaks from editing to practice guitar technique. And today after work I have a soccer game to look after my physically health and wellbeing. After the game I will head home to eat dinner and edit more of my book.
It feels good to know the direction I’m going and be able to concentrate on the individual tasks I need to do to move that way. I don’t know the final destination yet, but I have milestones to mark progress along the way, and people to keep me accountable for the end results of the work I’m putting in. Today is filled with opportunities and I’m going to grab each one with both hands.
What are some of the ways you become distracted from the task at hand? How can you change your environment to help maintain your focus?
If you want some tips on how I manage my productivity, especially on the days I start out feeling least motivated let me know and I’ll make a post about it.
Keep on keeping on being awesome. Peace.