productivity

Focus on Everything

Many an article is written on the topic of focus. People tell you that in order to meet your goals, you must push everything away that can distract you. You must focus on that one thing, until you achieve it – otherwise you run the risk of not accomplishing anything at all.

I think that’s a load of hooey.

The more you do, the more you know. I am a voracious learner. I’m curious to the nth degree, and I get very frustrated when I don’t understand things. So the only way I can find peace is to try and figure it out. Thank goodness for Google.

Because of my innate curiosity, I end up involving myself in a lot of things I would not otherwise be involved in. Curiosity is the reason I ended up going back to school to learn about new media in 1997. Suddenly, it became my career. Curiosity made me want to get into teaching – after all, in order to teach something, I had to learn it first. What better way to understand things than to have to explain them to someone else, right?

My curiosity makes me take on lots of new things, and sometimes, those new things become opportunities. So do a lot. Be curious a lot. And before you know it, doors will start to open.

Overdo it! Come on! I dare ya! I am the type of person that likes to be involved in a hundred things at once. I come by it honestly. When I was growing up, my parents were always doing a million things. They worked full time, raised two kids, were gardeners, and were two of the most active people in their community. They were always on organizing committees to plan events and fundraisers for our town, were heavily involved in social events on the military base, and then in his “spare” time, my Dad helped build a TV station. Did I mention they both worked full time, and still had plenty of time left over to spend with us kids?

I often hear people say things like “Don’t bite off more than you can chew!” and “Don’t stretch yourself too thin!”.  Now, I’m not advocating spending every waking moment running around, being involved, working on this and that. There has to be a balance, and everyone’s limit is different. But I think that many people are so afraid of over-committing themselves that they end up not committing to anything. Instead, they wind up on the sofa watching reruns of LOST 6 hours a day, wondering where the time goes and why everyone else seems to be getting all the good stuff.

I encourage you to take a good hard look at how you spend your days. Sure, you may have three kids, two dogs, and a mother-in-law. But I bet that even with all that going on you can find 1 hour a day (doesn’t have to be consecutive!), to carve out some time to at least THINK about a project or two that interests you. Maybe you even talk to a friend or colleague that might want to work on your projects with you.

Find the time MAKE the time to work on stuff. Inject it into your day. Sitting at the coffee shop with a sleeping 6 month old? That’s plenty of time to learn something new, jot down some ideas, or GChat with a friend about your idea. Walking the dog? Why listen to Christina Aguilera for the thousandth time, when you can be catching up on interesting podcasts or taking a course at iTunesU?

We all have more time than we think we do. We all have some room to commit to new things. You just have to figure out how to work it in with the rest of your life.

But what about focus? Oh yes, we were talking about focus. Sorry, I got distracted. :)

Here’s what I’ve been wondering about the past few days. I’m involved in more things right now than I’ve ever been involved in before. My company has just started a bunch of great new projects. I’m gearing up for another semester of teaching at Algonquin College, and I’m also designing an online course in Digital Communication for this program. I’m working on a couple of speaking engagements this Fall. I’m heavily involved in the creation of SAW Video’s new web site. We’re in pre-production for Season 3 of The House Healers. I even have a couple of secret projects on the go in the background. All that…AND, I still spend plenty of quality time with hubby and the rest of the family, my friends, and occasionally find some time for just me. I sleep 6-8 hours a night. I watch maybe 2 hours of TV a week. Balance.

Some people might argue that I don’t have any focus, and that it’s dangerous to be so “all over the place”. But if that’s the case, then why do I feel like I have more clarity than ever before? My good friend and mentor Andre nailed it the other day, when he said to me, “You have clarity, because you are doing what you should be doing. You’re finding all kinds of ways to create and deliver content. It may seem like you’re all over the place, but in fact, you’re doing one thing well. You’ve just found lots of different ways to do it.” I think he’s bang on.

So, I challenge you…forget focusing on one thing. Focus on everything you care about. The secret is to not get overwhelmed, and to chip away at everything as it comes. You’ll find that when you’re focusing on doing everything you love, it all becomes crystal clear.

Oh, and while you’re busy focusing on everything? Here are some great tips from Lifehacker on how to train your brain to be less distracted. Hat tip to my friends Randy Matheson and Stacerella for focusing long enough to point out the article to me. :)

[photo credit: Philo.cn on Flickr]

One Comment

  1. While you are doing a million things, remember that for the few minutes that you are doing any one of those things, be tightly focused on that one activity.

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