I admit that I am not always laser focused. The one situation where I am focused is when I’m speaking in front of a large group of people. Give me an audience of 4,000 and my mind is sharp, my focus is clear, and my humor is hah-larious.
But put me in a room by myself and I can find a million ways to lose my focus. In fact, if I could make money at being un-focused, I could have retired years ago. My ship would have already come in. Of course I probably would have missed it because I was focused on something besides the ramp to get on.
Anyway, since focus is such an important asset in our work and personal life, and an area in which I could use some improvement, I thought it was worthy of being, well, the focus of this article. So, today, I sat at my desk and began writing about some specific techniques that might help us with attention, priorities, and results. I had just gotten started when I noticed that a light bulb over my desk had burned out. I went to our supply cabinet to get a new bulb and discovered that we didn’t have any of that size. The recessed lighting in my home office requires an indoor flood light bulb. All I had was a bunch of those spiral-shaped, energy-efficient bulbs that, for some reason, freak out my recessed receptacles. The spiral bulbs work for a while and then they fizzle and pop. I learned this from experience, after three failed attempts at using them. Clearly, I adhere to this maxim: If at first you don’t succeed, try twice more.
I got my shopping list and made a note that we would need bulbs the next time we go to the hardware store. I figured, while I’m at it, I should to take an inventory of all the bulbs we have, just in case we need other types too. However, the cabinet was a mess of bulbs, batteries, extension cords, and paper clips. Wait, paper clips? How do paper clips get into every drawer and cabinet in our house? It’s like they’re alive and moving locations every few days. I tossed out all of the random paper clips but before I could finalize my shopping list, I needed to get the cabinet organized just to figure out what we had in stock. After about forty-five minutes, the cabinet looked beautiful. It was like a display case at Bulbs-R-Us. And after my tidying-up efforts, I knew exactly what I needed from the hardware store: indoor flood light bulbs, 60-watt bulbs, AAA batteries, and laundry detergent. You see, I had noticed that the laundry cabinet was also disorganized. While I straightened that cabinet up, I found that we were out of detergent.
I went back to my office and on the way in, it occurred to me why the room was so dark. I hadn’t opened the curtains that morning. Duh. So I opened them and noticed a huge spot in the middle of the window, apparently caused by a passing bird who had made a fly-by “deposit” on our house. I had washed the outside windows a few months ago but I had somehow missed my office window. And for the last few weeks I kept forgetting to go back and wash it. But today’s weather was perfect to wash windows—not too hot and not too cool. And since I was only washing one window, it wouldn’t take that long.
I got the window washing supplies out and noticed that my squeegee was broken. The handle was bent so it didn’t work properly. I could bend it back this time but I would need another one before I did any extensive window washing. I made the necessary repairs and after a relatively quick job, the window looked great. I got back to my office in no time at all. Actually, it had been a little over two hours since I noticed the light bulb but since I was so busy, the time had flown by.
I went online to buy a new squeegee and found some great videos of people creating artwork with squeegees. I thought, “This would make a great example for a video blog and if I could actually recreate the artwork myself, it would probably go viral.”
I saved the video links (after watching six or seven) and went back to searching for a new squeegee.
The great thing about shopping online is that you have lots of choices and most items are reviewed so that you know how satisfied previous customers were with the product. I was intrigued by the variety of opinions about these basic squeegees. Some models had scratched windows. Others had broken after the first use. One even caused a rash to break out on a user’s hand. Finally, after about fifty reviews, I chose what appeared to be the best model for the price. Since I was already online, I added light bulbs and batteries to my order to save a trip to the hardware store. Several clicks later, I was done.
Now, back to the blog. As I said, I was writing about focus and had several ideas about techniques to help us stay on track. One, in particular, had come from a book I read on mindfulness. But I couldn’t remember the name of the book. Since I have a bit of a book hoarding issue, I wasn’t even sure where it was located on my shelves. So, I did a quick internet search on mindfulness and landed on a list of wonderful videos showing yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness techniques. I’ve wanted to improve my meditation skills for a long time. In fact, I think meditation helps us focus. So, I watched several introductory videos. Coincidentally, they suggested that meditation is best practiced in a dimly lit room. How lucky was I that my light bulb had burned out?
After about twenty minutes, I remembered I was actually looking for an idea I had read on mindfulness. I finally found the title of the book by searching for the author’s name. Ironically, the book was sitting on my desk under a stack of papers all along. Go figure. I tracked down the quote and then discovered that I had never read the final chapter of the book. Since it was only eight pages long, I quickly read it. Turns out, it was the best chapter in the book—completely eye opening. I’m so glad I read it.
I went back to my desk and the minute I sat down, our dog let me know that she needed to go outside. However, since she’s a puppy, when she needs to go outside, it usually means she wants to eat sticks and leaves rather than to go potty. I spent the next fifteen minutes saying, “no, Piper, don’t eat that, no, Piper, don’t eat that,” to a dog who, as Gary Larsen once said, only hears, “Piper, blah, blah, blah, Piper, blah, blah, blah.”
I got back inside and looked at the clock. It was 11:40. It was way too close to noon to start writing. I needed time to prepare lunch so that I could eat at noon. I really like being on schedule.
As I sat at my desk, eating lunch and watching Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, I felt like my morning had been quite busy. But, there wasn’t much work to show for it. Then I remembered that I had organized a couple of cabinets, cleaned my window, ordered a bunch of supplies, finished reading a book, and taken the dog out. It had been a productive morning after all.
And that’s the power of focus.