I recently sat down with a professional travel writer to get a little bit of advice and insight into her world. She makes a living out of freelance writing and it turns out that almost 12 years ago I took her Continuing Education course on travel writing. As I shared my thoughts and goals with her, it became shockingly apparent to me the lack of focus that I have.
“I’ve written a book (fiction) that I want to get published. It’s part of a three-book series.”
“I’m working on an e-book as a pull for my blog and to self-publish on the side.”
“I’m trying to increase my blog traffic through marketing efforts.”
“I’m hoping to partner with some travel operators on my next big trip overseas.”
“I want to write a travel guide for my favourite island in Scotland.”
Okay… did we mention that these are just my writing goals? Add to that my day-job, my pregnancy, my day to day life and my desire to streamline my home, is it any wonder that I’m not actually making progress on any of these fronts?
I’m willing to bet that I’m not in this alone… at least I hope I’m not in this alone!
The key element that I realize I’m missing is focus. I used to be laser-focused, ironically at a time when I was working three jobs as one. I didn’t have time for fluff, to be distracted. I was the most productive (and burnt out…) that I’ve ever been in my life. Obviously I don’t want to go back to burn out, that’s not good for anyone, but how can I get a little focus back in my life?
The Focus Project
I’m taking a leaf out of Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project and giving myself a one-month challenge. For the month of August, I’m challenging myself to do one thing at a time, focus my energies, and see what really happens to my productivity and my state of mind. Every challenge needs some rules, right? Here are mine:
1. Do one thing on the computer at a time.
I’m the person that watches Netflix while checking email while scheduling tweets while writing blog posts. It’s ridiculous and I know it. I’m either writing, or I’m not. I’m either working on my social media, or I’m not. I’m either on a conference call, or I’m not. My one caveat is that music needs to be allowed, so some might call that two things on my computer at a time, but music helps me cut out distractions.
2. Be present.
I recently heard someone say how difficult it was to do anything without thinking about what has just happened or what is going to happen. Isn’t it a little sad that we struggle to be in the here and now? It’s something that I’m horrible at, so I’m going to make a conscious effort. This, I believe, will be the biggest challenge on my plate.
3. Make time for the quiet.
This can be going for a walk, doing a yoga class, or simply sitting and meditating (though I struggle with this one!), but I think we all need a little more quiet in our over-stimulated lives.
4. Actively use the parking lot system.
Remember my predilection for doing or thinking about multiple goals at once? Yeah… that’s going to be a struggle, BUT, I think that as long as I can ‘park’ my ideas for the moment, I can try to work on just one thing until it’s done. I don’t want to forget any of my goals, challenges or ideas, so I’ll sticky note them until I’m ready to tackle them. This goes for both work and life.
5. Regularly prioritize my to-do list.
One of my mentors recently shared with me a method to get more done. Ironically, at the time she shared it to help me to get anything done at all, as I was massively struggling, but since using it I’ve found it has helped me to accomplish more than I planned to. The method was of taking my epic to-do list and highlighting my top three priorities for the day. Nothing else mattered until those three things were done. Isn’t it funny how we often push off the most pressing items? We imagine them to be the biggest challenges, so we build up walls against them, yet if we actually sit down to tackle them, they can actually be easy? For both my work and my life to-do lists, I’m going to enforce my daily priorities and see what happens.
Am I the only one that struggles with focus? Do you share my struggle?
I’m going to be challenging myself to these five principles for the month of August. If you want to join me on this challenge, I would love it! I don’t want to spam my blog readers with updates on this, but if you head on over to my Facebook page, perhaps that’s a place that we can regularly check in with one another? Set weekly goals and compare notes? I’ll be there… maybe you’ll join me?
Here’s to the importance of focus. Cheers.