Mindful Focus

mindful focus

I’ve been fortunate to spent the last year traveling around the world. It’s been an incredible adventure to say the least. When you’re working online on a RTW trip you find yourself being productive in some strange places.

Right now I’m at a cafe in the middle of nowhere. It’s stiflingly hot, loud trucks are passing by, old people are loud talking at each other, and there are sweaty personal space invading waitresses everywhere. Not the most excellent work environment right? Wrong, I’ve been remarkably focused over the last couple hours of working here.

This space should be anything but conductive to focus or work and yet I’m completely mindful of the tasks I’m working on and getting them all done. I’ve completed all of my MITs and even had time to write this little post up in a couple hours. I’ve been in the flow state for this entire time.

How is this? It helps that I started this work session “on a hill” and that I’m working on exactly what I want to be working on. Also, I’ve been intensely cutting down on anything that doesn’t directly relate to what keeps me mindful and focused.

It helps that I’m working on less projects, telling people no more than yes, and generally reducing what I do online to next to nothing.

Beyond focus it helps to be mindful.

Counterintuitive: Start Your Day On A Hill

Here is something you can do to really kickstart your workday. Start each day on a downward slopping hill. A metaphorical downward hill that is.

Stopping a task at an arbitrarily defined time like 5PM really makes no sense. Try stopping your task on or shortly after the point you’re most excited about it. One would think if you’re excited about something you should continue working on it until the excitement wanes. This is great if you can complete the task in sitting. If the task takes you into another day you may want to consider quitting while you’re ahead.

The whole point of this is that it takes an incredible effort to get back to that level of energy and excitement the next time day. Sometimes generating that kind of interest is just too much to ask early in the morning. So we allow the distractions to take over. Like processing email. In other words procrastinating with something that feels productive but is really just busy work.

Stop when you find yourself totally motivated and pumped up. Move onto the next item and get that task rolling.

When you start your next day you’ll be excited to get back to the first task where you left off. Ideally if you stagger your tasks like this it will never feel like a chore to get going, and you’ll be a ninja on startup every day.

[photo by incase]

Hard Choices Are Easy Choices In Disguise

When faced with a personal decision choose the more difficult option because it will actually be easier in the long run. It’s like personal finance. Spending money now is easy but it’s not good for your long term savings. Saving money now is always the more difficult option and yet it is far better in the long run.

For example:

Decision: Should I smoke that crack?! No!
Result: You won’t become a drug addict and you’ll save money on buying crack. (isn’t crack cheap though? hmph)

Decision: Should I wake up earlier and gor for a run before work? Yes.
Result: You’ll be happier and healthier in the long run.

Decision: Should I work instead of playing Angry Birds? Yes.
Result: You’ll accomplish more and spend your time doing things that matter.

I think you get the idea.

It’s pretty easy to get overun by the “shoulds”. I should be doing this or I should be doing that. Don’t let that kind of thinking take over. Be gentle with yourself and if you really want to just sit around watching movies than do that.

Just don’t make a habit of making the easiest choice all the time. The choices you make now become the habits you form and those habits will impact the rest of your life.

A side effect of this line of thinking is that you’ll appreciate the down time, or non productive, or just plain fun stuff more. A ‘treat’ isn’t a treat if you do it all the time. You wouldn’t eat a tub of ice cream every day? So why would you watch 2 hours of TV or movies every night?

Also, I’m really enjoying writing these posts these days. I hope you’re finding them useful. Also, I’ve fixed up this site a bit but you won’t see it if you’re viewing via RSS. I’ve updated my photography portfolio and disabled comments on this site. I feel the comments just aren’t adding any value and they’re just another inbox for me.