Photo by Christa Gallopoulos

Recently, a woman in my Playing Big course asked me this thoughtful question:

“How do we keep the focus, the goal, when life is happening around us? How do you master your focus?”

Such a great question, especially in this age when we have so many choices, opportunities, cat videos and natural toothpaste brands to choose from.

It got me thinking – how do I stay focused on the things that are most important to me? Here are the three big practices that help me:

1. I give the right hours to the right task. I write first thing in the morning, when I am best able to write. Writing is so demanding, creatively speaking, and after 11am or so, it’s tough for me to find the mental energy for it. Later in the day I do business tasks, emails, etc. that take less energy. The idea here is to figure out what hours of the day are best suited for what tasks for you, and, as best you can, get in the habit of structuring your work according to that. What hours of the day are best suited to your most demanding work? What hours are best suited to details and logistics? What hours are best suited to creative work? You get the idea.

2. I know my big-picture priorities. With the new year or my birthday or whenever I feel the urge, I identify my big picture desires for the period ahead — sometimes for the coming six months, or year, or five years. I might write a list of goals or draw a mindmap of a few major directions – I’m not picky about that part.

If I know those big-picture goals/desires/directions, a few weeks later, when I get excited about new possible direction #6001, I come back to my priorities and ask, “Is this going to be high-return-on-investment in helping me get one of those few goals?”

Occasionally, I say yes to a project even when it is unrelated, because I’m moved by it or know it will bring me great joy, or hear a strong intuitive “yes” answer inside. But the big priorities provide a kind of guideline for what I do and don’t take on.

It’s not enough to have the goals. What matters is the practice of again and again asking, “Wait, before I leap into this – will this help me achieve what is of greatest importance for me right now?”

3. I love what I do and I do what I love. This is the most important one. I could never keep the focus on climbing a hill that I didn’t love climbing.

I want to reframe the question “How do you master your focus?” because I don’t like the paradigm of having to “master” my impulses. I never want to send myself the message that I need to be controlled, tamed, or disciplined by anyone – especially me. I want to change certain habits I’ve got, I want to move certain stuck areas, but I want to do that by understanding them, shedding the light on them, and teaching myself new ways – all with friendly compassion.

I choose to try and find those things I have natural, passion-driven focus for. An example perhaps you can relate to: no matter how fit I want to be, I have never been able to show up consistently to exercise if I found the workout grueling or boring. I can cope for a few weeks, maybe even a few months, then that’s it. The only way I exercise consistently is to do a form of it that I love. I consider my inability to do a workout I hate a sign of mental health, not a sign that I need more self-discipline.

I truly trust that within me, and within you, there is a well of natural motivation for our right work. What stops us, in my experience, usually isn’t lack of focus but fear, resistance, or plain ol’ unhelpful habits.

Maybe it’s as simple as this: Do what you love, name and talk through your fears, and the focus will follow.

***

I’m very excited that the In Your Element Program for women entrepreneurs, part of Playing Big University, is now open for registration. 200 women joined us for yesterday’s call about women thriving as entrepreneurs. You can learn more and get the call recording HERE.

***

Highlights to tweet or FB share from this post:
 
I consider my inability to do a workout I hate a sign of mental health, not a sign of poor self-discipline. – @tarasophia http://bit.ly/MdvZ8x
 
Within me, and within you, there is a well of natural motivation for our right work. – @tarasophia http://bit.ly/MdvZ8x
 
Give the right hours of the day to the right task.- – @tarasophia http://bit.ly/MdvZ8x

 
Love,
 
Tara