Because I am 59 years old, I first went to work in the Seventies when working conditions were pretty formal and uptight. This meant not much fun and no distractions. Oh, and no computers or mobile phones. And certainly no music while we were working. Photocopies were wet. A fax took twenty minutes to get to London from Oxford (!) and adding machines ruled the day before the invention of the calculator. I’m a Luddite in part of my soul; it’s not my fault, I am a child of my time.
These old-fashioned disciplines have stood me in good stead. Consequently I can focus from 9-5 without noticing the time passing. I can even do longer. And much longer. I can do as long as is required to meet your deadline or mine. Want something doing? Ask me, I’m a busy person.
However, I can also – these days – multi-task like a good ‘un, and that’s not great actually. I might, for instance, be using my laptop to watch TV whilst also doing emails and Facebook. This would be in the evenings, goes without saying, surely? Not during the daytime. Heaven forfend! I see from the advert with the guy from Breaking Bad that they are even marketing a TV which actively encourages this. Ye Gods and little fishes!
What’s the net effect of this multi-tasking? I don’t really do any of them well. And it takes me all bleedin’ night to watch one 40 minute TV programme with constant interruptions. The only time I don’t multi-task when watching TV is when it’s got Scandinavian subtitles, then you can’t absorb content unless you watch and read at the same time since Danish is not yet one of my languages. I’d be MUCH BETTER OFF just picking one thing and doing it. or JFDingI as one of my 30DC clients calls it. Quite, Madam.
In the 30DC, Screw Work Let’s Play HQ is teaching the fine art of micro-blocking, which is where you put aside twenty minutes to simply get something (anything) completed. You might also look (God help me) at The Pomodoro Technique where you learn to work in blocks of 25 minutes. It might help. It might help you, I don’t have any need for it whatsoever. I’m not being smug. I am just describing how my life is and how lucky I am. Oh and did I mention I don’t have kids or a significant other? Focus could easily be my middle name. Sad, another.
I do understand how our attention span has been fractured by modern gadgets and ways of living and working, specifically how you (not me) allow everything to interrupt you all the time. I don’t allow anyone to phone me – ever. I am somewhat astonished when the phone rings and I almost never answer it. All client calls are scheduled via an online appointments system. I set up chunks of time in my diary according to what is important to me as well as to my clients. And I do allow some flexibility for emergency Skype calls with my lovely clients because their needs are paramount in my business. I’m there for them.
I use my Outlook calendar (which I prefer to call a diary) to colour code what I am going to be working on and when and, Er… that’s what I do. It’s my choice. I don’t put anything in my diary I don’t want to do and when it comes time to do that task, I do it. What can I say? The somewhat fuddy duddy disciplines I was taught in the four scant years I worked for others between 1973 and 1977 have set me up to succeed in my own business. School too. I feel lucky, to be honest with you. Especially when I listen to clients telling me why they cannot get done even the stuff which is important to them, close to their heart and vital. Say what?
But I also want to make it easy for you to win against your own demons and distractions and, because you all tell me this is how it is for you, I believe you despite my own experience in business life being radically different. So we brainstorm different ways of working and experiment with them until you find the one that’s perfect for you. And nobody, NOBODY, is happier to see that breakthrough than me. Now you can get something done. Now you can be a high achiever. Now you can make a difference in the world, in your world too.
And that’s all you want, really. A system of creating focus and using your time available to best advantage and in a way which you find productive, creative and nourishing. What’s your way? Do share. It will be valuable to others just like you. And if you haven’t got one yet, who you gonna call?