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Focus In On That Fog

Many people cannot “see the forest for the trees.” Not me. I have trouble seeing the forest because I also see the meadow and the skyline and the distant skyscrapers and all the people rushing to work and the implications of global warming and the hope of world peace… You get the idea.

Learning to focus has been a personal goal of mine for longer than I care to admit. I hope to experience it at least once before moving on to experience the infinite. I’ve even tried tying my ankles to the chair in order to see a project through to completion. But then I just made a mess when I hobbled over, chair in tow, to refill my coffee mug.

Focus is hard because the world is a busy place. How do people know exactly what deserves focus? As soon as you publish your words on paper, you are late to recording audio podcasts, only to discover that you should have been posting video to the web. You invest in a promising employee’s professional development only to find them developing faster than your organizational chart can adjust. One day you’re enthusiastically inventing the next best mouse trap only to discover that Google is giving it away for free the next.

If you need to step away from this article to go scream, go ahead.

Thank you for returning.

Sometimes we lose focus because we are trying to take on too much at once. Rather than think methodically, we try to influence all the circumstances, relationships and dynamics that relate to our plans. We want our control to extend beyond what is possible in a complex, multi-faceted global community. We want more from ourselves than is humanly possible.

Enough! Try starting small. As Thoreau said, “Simplify, simplify.” Focus on a single intention today and see it through. No matter what is going on, no matter what surprises come up, you will be sure to accomplish one thing.

I suggest a ten-minute morning exercise where you address three questions:

  1. If I accomplish one thing today, that one thing must be…
  2. What one complicating reality can I anticipate and head off?
  3. What one element can I include in my day that will keep me energized?

Then untie your ankles from the chair and enjoy your focused, though still complicated and crazy, day.

And yes, we have cool Daily Focus Pads for sale.

Always your side.

3 Responses to “Focus In On That Fog”

  1. Jared Says:

    I agree Karl, focus is more difficult now than it has ever been. We are in the midst of an information revolution, and learning to focus is harder than ever, especially when we’re also commanded to ‘multitask’. Being in the knowledge economy gives us the opportunity to use these changes to take our professions in a better, more efficient, more elegant, more user-friendly, and more ethical direction. It also gives us the challenge to adapt to something that we are not, I believe, well-suited for.
    Have you ever heard of “Getting Things Done”? Or even just “GTD” as it is called by the legions of productivity hackers who use it. I wrote a few bits on my blog, but you can find stuff just about anywhere on the net. Of course, I recommend you also buy the book.

  2. Karl Says:

    I think you’ve told me about “Getting Things Done” before, but I haven’t gotten it yet. I’ll have to make a point of it now. If you see it show up as one of my recommendations down the road, you’ll know I acted. I’m going over to check out your blog now.

  3. Mike Blyth Says:

    Thanks for this advice, Karl. I recognize this as an issue for me and I plan to try using your three questions to try to discern what really needs doing each day.

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