We want to get more done in our lives. So many things, so little time. But there’s an old technique to solve a modern problem. Read all about it.
It’s not that we are short of time. We all have the same amount of time in our days, and yet we know people who produce so much more than others, (than us)! The problem isn’t that some people are fast. Why is it that some people can get more done, and others don’t? You already know that real work doesn’t get done if you’re on an infinite Email-Phone-Facebook-Spotify-Whatsapp-Email-Facebook do-loop.
We are short of intensity of focus. If we can bring all of ourselves to live every single moment, we could get so much more done and yet have time to spare. Distractions are everywhere, and we have trained ourselves to respond to every distraction. With partial attention, and short attention spans, we spend more time to get things done. We spend more time in office, more time checking emails, and more time feeling guilty about how we’re getting little done. We burn time, where burning distractions would have been better.
Early in my career, I had a boss who was a slow thinker. He’s very smart, so it’s not that he wasn’t keeping pace. It’s that he had decided that thinking fast is not for him, and that thinking slow allowed him to process more information and make better choices. Initially when I started to work with him, it would frustrate me no end that I’m on slide 10 of the presentation, and he’s still thinking about slide 2. But over time, I learnt that his method makes more sense. Haste makes waste, because when we move fast, we miss things and then have to double back up to make up for our mistakes. He was very aware of where his attention was at any point in time, and he would stay where his attention was, instead of responding inattentively to whatever I was saying at the time. In other words, he let me know that he was not tuning me out, but that I had to tune into where he was. Not many people let you know that, even if they are tuned out.
There’s the concept of attention residue, which means that if we’re multi-tasking, our attention is divided on all the things we’re keeping track of, and the the attention available to the task at hand is a fraction of all the attention we have. We need to move from task to task, and finishing (or dropping) each task as we go along. Every action must be total in itself. When it’s over, it’s truly over.
How can we reset ourselves and be in the moment? This isn’t just a problem that just came up this decade. It’s a problem that has been around for a while, and answers are available. Be here now. But how?
Learn to meditate. Meditation is a learnable technique, and can be used to create distance between one deep task and another. A simple 20-minute breath meditation can serve to declutter the mind of the mess of swirling thoughts in our mind, and give us a clear mind-space to take on the next activity fully. There are some meditations recorded and available on my website that you can use to reset the mind and create a freshness that can bring energy and focus on the next activity.
Don’t have time? Oh! yes, you do. Here’s some crude math. If you’re focused on four activities at one time (say email, Facebook, task 1, and ongoing meeting), then the attention available to your current meeting is, say, 50% (assuming that you’re really trying to focus on the meeting). In an hour, you probably got half the work done. If, on the other hand, you could meditate for twenty minutes, you’d still get two thirds or more of the work done. That’s 33% more work, free with purchase of a (also free) twenty minute meditation!
Be in the moment, get more done.