“Life is available only in the present moment. If you abandon the present moment you cannot live the moments of your life deeply.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
Lately, I’ve been struggling to stay focused with so many things to keep a tab on…
Dealing with a busy time in my primary business to complete files for our clients.
Writing daily on Medium.
The back and forth with my publishing agent to get my book published.
Dealing and managing my real estate rental operations.
Working on building a program to help individuals and businesses get ahead financially.
Stying on top of different training and mastermind programs.
The past couple of months have been busy. But I’m super thankful for the growth and insights I’ve gained as a result of all these.
There are good days and there are challenging days.
Yesterday, I stayed focused on one primary task for most of the day and noticed a significant move in the needle. So, I started thinking of “focus” and recalled a book I read a while ago by Greg McKeown where he wrote about “focus”.
I searched for the book, found it, and turned to the chapter on focus. I read it again last night and thought I’d share some of the key lessons today.
In his book, Essentialism, Greg makes the point that “Essentialism” isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done.
Have you ever found yourself stretched too thin?
Do you simultaneously feel overworked and underutilized?
Are you often busy but not productive?
Do you feel like your time is constantly being hijacked by other people’s agendas?
If you answered yes to any of these, Greg argues that the way out is the Way of the Essentialist.
In the last couple of months, I have certainly answered “yes” to these questions, more often than I would like to admit.
In his chapter on focus, Greg notes that staying focused is based on a simple but powerful idea:
“to operate at your highest level of contribution requires that you deliberately tune in to what is important in the here and now.”
Have you ever become trapped reliving past mistakes…over and over like a video player, stuck on endless replay?
Do you spend time and energy worrying about the future?
Do you spend more time thinking about the things you can’t control rather than the things you can control about the areas where your efforts matter?
Do you ever find yourself busy trying to mentally prepare for the next meeting, or the next assignment, or the next chapter in your life, rather than being fully present in the current one?
According to Greg…
“It’s natural and human to obsess over past mistakes or feel stress about what may be ahead of us. Yet every second spent worrying about a past or future moment distracts us from what is important in the here and now.”
When we preoccupy our minds with past successes and failures, as well as with future challenges and opportunities, we miss the present moment. We become distracted. We become unfocused.
Greg notes that the way of the Essentialist is to tune into the present. To focus on the things that are truly important — not yesterday or tomorrow, but right now.
“The Essentialist has his or her mind focused on the present. Tunes in to what is important right now. And enjoys the moment.”
Greg makes an important distinction between Multitasking and Multifocusing. He notes that we can easily do two things at the same time (multitasking): wash the dishes and listen to the radio, eat and talk, clear the clutter on our desk while thinking about where to go for lunch, text message while watching television, and so on.
What we can’t do is concentrate on two things at the same time. Being present, according to Greg, is about being focused on one thing at a time. He concludes that:
“Multitasking itself is not the enemy of Essentialism; pretending we can ‘multifocus’ is.”
To be fully present in the now and to stay focused, Greg recommends three techniques to consider:
1. Figure out what is most important right now
Greg recommends that when you’re faced with so many tasks and obligations that you can’t figure out which to tackle first, you should stop. Take a deep breath. Get present in the moment and ask yourself what is most important this very second — not what’s most important tomorrow or even an hour from now.
If you’re not sure, make a list of everything vying for your attention and cross off anything that is not important right now.
2. Get the future out of your head
According to Greg, getting the future out of your head will enable you to more fully focus on “what is important now.” He suggests that you list out those things that might have been essential — just not right now. By listing out all the ideas in your head and putting them on paper, you accomplish two things.
First, you won’t forget about the ideas that may prove useful in the future. Second, you alleviate the stressful and distracting feeling that you need to act upon the ideas now.
Prioritize the items on your list. Work on each item on the “what is essential now” list one at a time. Calmly work through them and erase each item as you complete it. And you will notice that you would have executed all the things to be done at the moment better and faster. You would have completed them with focus.
Essentialism is a fantastic book. I recommend you grab a copy and read it if you’ve not done so already.
I’ve been working on only focusing on a few tasks each day, blocking 3 to 4 hours to focus on one task helps to move the needle faster. In the coming days, I will be implementing more of these ideas to help increase my focus.
Give it a shot, and I bet you will improve your focus and your productivity.
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