Thursday, November 13, 2008

Challenging Times call for Focus

Obviously, these are challenging times.

One of the things that makes them challenging is the uncertainty that surrounds all of us. What's happening to my savings? What's happening to my job? What if the sky falls? What are we going to do about 'X'? What if, what if, what if???

Mike Hyatt, President and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers - whose blog has become required daily reading for me - has two posts that address some of the challenges we face. In the first post, he describes what leaders must do in turbulent times. In second post, he writes about the 10 benefits of a recession.

These are great posts that I hope you all read, as they offer concise, practical advise for facing adversity and determining what is important to you.

It is interesting to me to watch how the stress of uncertainty affects us. Some people completely lose their focus and tend to anxiously flit about doing lots of things that don't matter, thinking everything is important and must be done at once. Others, have a laser-like focus on the most important things and tend to excel under stress. The people in the former group seem to lose all sense of time management, while the people in the latter group seem to become time management gurus overnight.

How does this happen? With some people it's like their internal compass has had a magnet applied to it. It just spins and spins. How can you stop it and get focused?

Here are a few ideas:

1. Breathe, just Breathe. Close your eyes, think of the Karate Kid, breath in through your nose and out through your mouth, nice and slow. Try to clear your mind of everything. Set a timer, do it for three minutes. It will seem like an eternity. This will slow your heart rate and calm your mind.

2. Ask yourself the question, If there was only one thing I need to have, or do, before ___________ (the sky falls), what would it be? This is the thing that is most important thing for you to do right now.

3. If the answer to your question is something like a project, in that it has many steps or dependencies, then pull your time frame into a one day increment. Ask yourself, if I only had today to get this project done, what would be the most important piece to make happen? Now the important stuff is coming into focus.

4. Make a commitment to yourself to make it happen. If you are truly committed, nothing can stop you.

5. Get started with a baby step. Of the stuff that (now) needs to get done today, what piece of it is the easiest to get done? Accomplishment is the best tool for action. Crank out a few easy things; get your momentum going.

6. Avoid the temptation to stop before you are done with what you committed to do. Don't let yourself down. This is discipline. Sometimes it takes strong discipline to get a task across the finish line.

7. Reward yourself for your accomplishment. Even if it is just giving yourself a silent 'atta boy' and getting a cup of coffee.

8. Repeat.

Focus leads to action, and action leads to focus. Sometimes to focus is not natural, but that doesn't mean you can't have it. During these challenging times, take one day at a time, and work on the things that are most important. Before you know it, the challenge will be past!


Anonymous said...

Nice to see such positive vibes coming thru the ether(net) that is the blog you share! No doubt, forward thinking in the face of dire circumstances (aka the world economic "crisis")is considered by some as fleetfooted, while truly, at heart, its really revolutionary. Cheers to you, Fran!

Fran Toolan said...

Thank You!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the game plan. My compass has been spinning since October. Gonna get one important thing done today.

Doug Lessing said...

There are many points in Fran's post that ring true, but the one that has always worked for me - when facing a daunting list of projects which need to be accomplished - is to build momentum. I tend to run very productively when the pressure is on and the pace is up, then less so when it wanes. As Fran suggests, taking those first steps on items which you can make progress will help build that momentum - and then focus comes out of chaos and progress is made. Thanks for the roadmap Fran!