Is hard. For me.
Somewhere around 4:30 PM yesterday afternoon I lost my focus. And I mean I completely lost it. I found myself on a skype call with great intentions of adding value and then, bam! Focus gone. Totally.
My laptop was in my lap, and so was my iPhone. Multiple windows were open and visible on my desktop and alerts were popping up everywhere. Before I new it, I found myself slipping back into a pattern of behavior that I had committed to abandon on January 7, 2011 while hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Managing Distractions Instead Of Eliminating Them
The final hike at The Ranch in Malibu contains a meditation segment that is several miles long. The guides space out the guests so we can walk alone and focus on nothing but our breathing. “I am breathing in. I am breathing out.” It sounded simple enough. Until about sixty seconds into the meditation when I found myself saying, “I am breathing out” while I was breathing in. Some random thought had bounced into my brain and I had completely lost my focus. This happened over and over as I walked. It was eye opening.
Somewhere in the middle of that meditation hike I realized that I had organized my life and work space to create the greatest possible distraction. Of course, that’s not what I labeled it. I labeled it “multitasking.” And I wore my ability to manage several tasks at once as a badge of honor. My desk was an array of computer screens, filled with open application windows. Facebook, Skype, iChat, Twitter, email, browsers, and other “essential” applications were constantly open on my screens, begging for my attention. And it slipped into my personal life as well. I was never really “there” for anyone or anything. I was in a constant state of distraction.
Before the hike ended I realized that I needed to make a drastic change. So, I came home and immediately dismantled all of the computers in my office, put them in boxes and purchased a new laptop with a smaller screen. Why? To force myself to focus on one thing at a time. While working, I committed to do the following:
- Have only one window visible on my screen at any time.
- Close email, Twitter and Facebook when not in use.
- Put my laptop to sleep during phone calls.
- Make all Skype calls full screen.
Up until yesterday afternoon at 4:30 PM, I had been fairly successful at keeping that commitment. Yesterday I failed miserably. So, to Peter Brewer and Lara Scott, I offer a sincere apology for not giving you my 100% yesterday afternoon. You deserved it and you didn’t get it. You probably noticed.
It’s so easy to slip back into old bad habits. For a few hours yesterday I got cocky. But the simple truth is this: focus is still hard for me. It may always be hard for me. I don’t manage distractions well. I need to continue to eliminate them.
Is focus hard for you too?
photo credit: Ed Schipul