Holiday weekends are hell on a to-do list.
And they should be! Who wants to tick off things on a list when others are busy getting sunburned at the racetrack/festival/lake? Yet, for me, there’s always stuff. And I love that. If it’s not fathering stuff or soccer stuff, it’s stuff I must do as a writer and freelancer.
I’m so much better at this than I was just months ago. Weeks, even.
I didn’t get this lightning-bolt moment of the mindful upgrade. It came slow and steady, boring, really. A tweak here to the routine. Catching up on email. Setting rules, such as scrapping non-personalized email after it sits two days in the inbox.
That I’m getting nearly no shit done this weekend is proof that my focus has sharpened.
Wait, what? Yeah. With incremental changes, a fresh look at choices to be made, and slow, steady, win-on-a-sacrifice-fly kind of mindset, suddenly, you too can sort and prioritize with far less thought than it takes to choose pan-tossed or thin crust.
How to sharpen your focus
1-Build change with LEGOs, not 2x4s
A gigantic, watershed moment isn’t likely to mark the greatest changes in your life. It’s not all BC and AD on your life’s timeline. Instead, it’s a more mundane, less cinematic moment. It’s based on rules you make for yourself – and your ability to stick to them.
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld marks every day he can stick to a new rule with a big red X on his calendar. One red X isn’t noteworthy. A week’s worth, though? That’s noticeable. When you reach Week 2 and Month 3 and a full year, you’ve changed your trajectory!
It’s an avalanche effect.
I started with the rule that I must meditate before breakfast. That’s an obstacle between me and my breakfast burritos. I did it one day. I did it the next. On my way to the current streak (115!), it became such a part of my routine I couldn’t imagine not doing it.
Replace change with shift. A change suggests a sudden upgrade in condition. A shift signifies a move in a better direction.
2-Be open to renewal
Constantly through our journey, we undergo death and birth. The parts of us that fall away aren’t always those we want to go. We foster attachment to jobs and cars and routines. We want to stick close to familiarity, even if it’s caused us long-lasting pain.
Some death and renewal come at no choice to us. Others, as a direct result of our choices. As the Rush song says if you choose not to decide/you still have made a choice. Do this mindfully! I stopped fearing the loss of a freelance gig I had trouble keeping up with.
If it’s meant to be, I’ll be able to get to it.
My daily reading comes to me at random. Yet, I take each post that finds its way onto my path as a signal to consider. Book recommendations? Add one to your list! Thirty-day pushup challenge? Get your ass on the ground. Embrace what’s set before you.
Next time you’re faced with a choice with a usual answer – where to get your morning coffee, for instance – choose against the automatic choice.
3-Try for trends
Stable and steady. I’ve put back on a few of the 25 pounds I’ve lost. It didn’t come overnight. I know a stop to the Couch to 5K and maybe a box or two of Vanilla Wafers in the car contributed. And I know the way back into my size 33s.
I can do away with buying those 12-ounce boxes of delicious cookies. I can stay away from the candy set aside for Hayden’s graduation party. Maybe I’ll skip the Little Caesar’s lunch combo for a month or two.
I don’t have to do it in one day.
Instead, the focus becomes on today. Each day that goes by in a trend builds momentum. My why here is crucial: I’m doing this not to look fly in my new button fly jeans, but to return to better health.
Assess your reasons for wanting to change. Are they internal or external? A desire to improve my health to impress my next SmartClips stylist relies on that stylist to like me. That’s unsteady. A desire to improve my health to feel better every day?
That’s something to focus on.
Now, it’s your turn. What methods have you found for improving your focus? What incremental gains have you made that have yielded life-changing results?