Saturday 9 January 2016

Change / Switch & Focus ; Saying No to 99% Of things

I've always found the start of a new year a bit odd. Why?

Because as hard as I try, there's always unfinished business from the previous year. Literally, as it happens. Either there'll be a project or assignment that has been delayed or there's some domestic or other renovation project that couldn't be completed on time. In any event, it usually takes until the end of the first month of the new year for me to wrap it all up , and so the year begins on a 'fresh' practical level somewhere between the end of january or (sometimes) even the middle of march.

Sounds odd, doesn't it? But it's not unusual for many of us to be in that position. It could be argued that we could have organised things better, but's one of those things where one of the oft-quoted laws ( murphy's is the common one) is the reason behind the situation(s) or scenario(s) that we end up finding ourselves in.

At least that's what we convince ourselves of, regardless of the actual nature of the scenario(s).

To overcome this, requires a skill that many of us tend to find a bit trying in our modern, hyperspeed-like world. In short,  if you learn to SAY NO to situations that may be siphoning off your energy and time without recourse to any real productive value and result, you'll be better able to keep on with the business at hand more effectively and get it completed in a timely fashion . Tenacity and grit are also part of that equation in my opinion, but that's a discussion for another time.

So a part of that skillset facilitates that you FOCUS in the moment and the task at hand, with clarity and DEDICATION. .  For example, Jony Ive has said that steve jobs could focus in a laser like way, and say no to 99% of things.

Most people don't like saying no, and even less of us  like hearing the word. It seems to carry more weight than it should sometimes, but as already mentioned above, it's in the refusal of committing to more things than necessary, that you can be more productive

In effect, overcommitting is the death knell of productivity, and this knocks on into our social and personal situations as well. 

And yet we all do it. I've done it many a time in the  past, but as time moves onward, I value my energy and ability to get things done more efficiently and want to ENJOY the process(es) more.  Work should be enjoyable as much as possible, otherwise you'll be less effective than if you  didn't enjoy the process. No one wins in that situation, neither the client nor the vendor.

Assuming the work is mostly enjoyable ( we all have our cul-de-sacs from time to time, and they're HEALTHY as they push us to go beyond our normal methodologies and skillsets), what can be done to maintain the laser-like focus required to get something done to the best of your abilities?

The obvious ones are :-

* Switch the phone off or at the very least, switch it to silent AND put it outside of your line of reach or sight for at least an hour on your desk or workstation.

* Don't check emails more than once an hour. Do it even less if you and your work style can manage it.

* Close off any windows/tabs that have social media applications running and use or check them less often. As much as I love twitter, I know that if I keep the application tab open, I'll go to it every fifteen or so minutes in the pretext of  refreshing my synapses.

The reality is that I'm cowarding out of keeping going to finish the task at hand, and hence using it to NOT deal with any potential stumbling block (e.g. writers block, creative block, cul-de-sac and so on), that would force me to think outside of my usual paradigms and methods.

And finally..

* Schedule comfort breaks every few hours of no more than ten or fifteen minutes. You can always catch up with social media and  phonecalls then, if necessary.

Bar an emergency situation (which can happen but are rarer than we think), it's not necessary to keep looking at the phone every 5 minutes. Bar a batch manufacturing fault, I think it's fair to say that it won't vapourise or self-destruct if you ignore it for a while ( see first tip)

In essence, unless your environment is becoming too risky or dangerous to work in, or some other life based crisis (god forbid) is occuring, keep on going until you can get the job or task at hand done.

Because once you've finished what you're doing, you may find that :-

a) you've got it done much quicker 


b) The result is better than you thought possible 

which leads to

c) A greater feeling of satisfaction when you DO take your break(s).

In effect, what is the point of being so readily available that you're not actually getting the work YOU need doing, done? How does that help the client or your boss ( or both) ? And ultimately, how does that help you?

Exactly, so let's get on with it.

Ah..I'm almost done.

I had a coffee break planned about now, but it can wait a little while longer, whilst I edit and refine a little more. That's fine, as I know i'll savour every drop when I do have it.