RFS Blog | by Karl W. Palachuk – Relax Focus Succeed. Learn more at www.relaxfocussucceed.com

CAT | Slow Down, Get More Done

I’m a big fan of working from priorities rather than a calendar. Yes, we all need calendars, but only for one reason: Our lives intersect with other peoples’ lives.

It takes a lot of effort to learn to work from priorities instead of a calendar. The good side is that you get a lot more done – and you know you’re always working on what’s important. The bad side is that most people don’t do this, and they can get upset with you for not adding their low-priority stuff to your calendar.

One of the huge benefits you get when you work on highest priorities first is that you take time to improve yourself and your life. Here’s what I mean:

All too often, we “know” we should do something, but there’s never time. I know I should study for an exam. I know I should upgrade my certification. I know I should read a book in my field. I know all that – but these things don’t make their way onto my calendar.

Everyday, we look at the high priority things and don’t do them because they take time. And since we’re focused on the calendar and the clock, time is so precious that we don’t make time to do what’s important!

For example: Let’s say you’ve been told – and you believe – that reading a specific book will dramatically improve your life (or sales process, stress level, relationships, etc.). You “know” that this book will change your life for the better.

But it’s been sitting on your shelf for a year. Why? Because reading feels like you’re not doing something. And, as a result, reading that amazing book never makes its way onto your calendar.

There’s a certain irony here, especially if you are struggling with something and you “know” this book will help. You don’t have time to take time to do something that will make all your future time more effective and positive.

What?

I love the old saying, “She’s too busy mopping the floor to fix the roof.” It’s very true for very many of us.

Some people find it hard to believe that I read, write, and meditate every day. The most common thing I hear is, “Where do you find the time?” The answer is, I don’t find the time. I find the priority.

I know absolutely and definitively that reading and writing every day will improve my future life significantly – both personally and professionally. So I set aside time to sit in a chair, get comfortable, and read.

You can do this. You don’t have to write every day. Or read every day. But whatever thing you know you need to do, just set aside an hour to do it.

And relax about it. It’s okay to block off an hour in your calendar for self improvement. Remember the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey? #7 is Sharpen the Saw. In other words, work on YOU.

Once you accept that something will improve your life, you have do it, right? That hour will pay you back with many better hours in the future.

:-)

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Jun/19

18

Single File, Please

In his autobiography Even This I Get to Experience, Norman Lear relays a story told to him by a therapist. He says to imagine a crowded room with about fifty people in it. Suddenly there’s smoke and someone yells “fire.” Some people escape, but others are jammed in the doorway and can’t get out.

The lesson: “Your thoughts are no different from those people who rushed to the door and are crushed there. Let the people out one or two at a time and everyone gets out. . . . Same thing with your thoughts, Norman.”

Single File

Someday I’ll come up with a less gruesome example. But it really struck me that this is an important lesson about our brains. So many people complain that their brains are over-active. They can’t think straight because of self-diagnosed ADD. Or their lives are just busier than everyone else. Or they can’t meditate due to monkey mind.

Here’s the deal: We’re all like that. We all have a million thoughts a day. We are all super-ridiculously busy. We all have monkey mind.

And for all of us, focus comes when we begin choosing to address the situation instead of using it as an excuse to be parallized by a tangled ball of thoughts. Despite all the research verifying that there is no such thing as multi-tasking, many people embrace it. For some, this is because it keeps them in the middle of the whirring, buzzing busy-ness and doesn’t require them to take responsibility for not making progress.

Everyone can focus. Everyone. When my daughter was born, I was amazed at how she could entertain herself watching the ceiling fan, or the faces of people going by. Then, I was amazed at her ability to play with blocks or books for hours. At every stage – even when the world said “Kids at that age are impossible” – she had periods of intense focus.

For some reason, many people don’t acknowledge their own ability to focus. Whether it’s reading, gardening, carving wood, painting, or just working really hard, we all have periods of great focus. But we don’t notice what’s going on in the moment.

When you’re focusing intently, you don’t notice that your brain has quieted down. You don’t notice that the thoughts have moved to the background and are forming a nice, orderly line. That’s because, once you’ve set your sites on the one thing that needs attention, your brain relaxes a bit and digs in. You choose to focus and it works hard to help you.

Intellectually, we know this is happening. We know we can do it when we need to. But we really love the story about millions of competing thoughts and monkey mind. That story gives us an excuse not to be focused.

Here’s the reality. If you know you can focus once, then you can focus again. You can choose to take a little time and be aware, in real time, how your brain and body feel when you’re focused. You can almost step outside yourself and catalog what’s going on. Try it.

The next time you are doing something super focused (anything from frosting a cake to balancing your books), do a quick cataloging exercise. How does your brain feel? How are your emotions? Are you relaxed? Is your heart going fast or slow? Are you muscles tight or loose? What does this kind of focus feel like?

Note: Focus can be very different for different situations. If you’re mountain climbing, your physical senses might be very highly tuned in and hyper aware. If you’re much safer and less intense, such as planting flowers, you are more likely to be very relaxed with a lower heart rate.

Once you’re aware of these moments of intense focus, you can start figuring out how to get back there. What’s the setting? What’s the task? What time of day? etc.

One of my favorite rules of life is Slow down, get more done. This is certainly an example of that. In the end, you get a lot more done when you only try to do one thing at a time.

Next time I’ll talk a bit about setting priorities. As long as you’re going to line up those thoughts single file, you might as well figure out which is at the front of the line!

:-)

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