How do you arrive at the thing or things to focus on every day?
There are innumerable items that float through my brain every day, usually just at the time the alarm goes off (if I’m lucky and don’t wake up early…). Living in a particularly woodsy area of the Pacific Northwest, I liken them to looking out my window and seeing all of the trees and such swaying in the wind. I can’t count them all, but they all attract some bit of attention and, at the same time, join in a constantly moving vista that can leave me a bit awestruck and frozen first thing in the morning. They are pretty as trees, but when translated into the metaphor of all the items and actions vying for my attention and prioritization, it’s overwhelming.
Some things are easy. Morning routine (everything to the point where I’m ready to “go to work”, whatever that looks like today…), followed by checking my calendar AGAIN (I’ve already looked at it a couple of times to triple check when my first meeting is, if there is one…). Like you, some days have more than others. The days that have one or no meetings are more difficult, really. Relatively “open” days require me to inspect the pile of things to do and, minding my own best times for productivity and creative work, prioritize and dig in accordingly. Not always easy.
One of the several books I’m reading now (you do the same thing don’t you? Several at once…?) is “Weeds Among the Wheat” by Thomas Green and why I mention this is that the book is about discernment. Discernment is more than just decision-making or prioritization based on importance, workload or preference. It’s about making sense of the always progressing movement through time we experience, coupled with the murky directions and decisions we have to make to find out a way forward. Written by a Jesuit, this book provides some deep insights into the process we all experience and delves into how we (meaning I…) can more closely integrate our truest, best selves into our own futures. It’s never clear-cut and often takes us (me…) in directions we could not have foreseen, means we would not have expected, and ends that look little like what we are aiming for at first.
For example, I’m one of those that find the morning the most creative and productive time of day, so I work to block chunks of it off to work on projects, research, writing and quality work for my clients. Sadly, mornings are also when most of the groups and people with whom I meet hold their meetings…..so I feel like I’m utilizing the best I have to the latter and not the former. However, upon further reflection, I realize that the groups and people I meet deserve the best of me, as I do of them. So, when I’m presented with days like that, I pivot on the projects, research, etc. that I need to do for my business and look hard at how to prioritize and fit them into other times. This isn’t as easy as I’d like (like many, for a period after lunch, I hit a “dip” in my ability to focus and be productive, so I schedule activities that require, shall we say, less heavy-frontal-lobe work!), but I’ve found that, since I love what I do, it can propel me to a more thoughtful creativity later in the day than I might have had if I’d done the same thing in the morning. Most of the time this results in different insights, and more holistic or comprehensive work results than I might have had if I’d done it during my sharp morning focus. In other words, it’s all good!
The discernment required is provided by the schedule itself, sometimes. Other times I’m drawn to a topic, curiosity, deadline or direction of inquiry by a feeling. Several books I’ve read have either been studies or cited studies confirming that, although our decision-making process may (or may not…) include degrees of rational process and data, the final decision is made by a “gut feeling”. This isn’t to negate the importance of good data and other inputs. It’s just that we’re human. We think AND feel, and feeling is the tipping point. Another tough admission: I may or may not ever discover if the direction I chose was “the right one.” I don’t believe that a lot of these kinds of choices are binary (that is “either/or”…). Perhaps I may get to see that the fruit of a particular direction turns out well, but that’s not really the point. The integration of my best self, moving through time and events, whether chosen and impacted by me or not, resulting in positive outcomes, whether chosen by me or not, is the point. Looking backwards and learning may influence moving forward, but I remember a favorite quote by Ricardo Semler: “Nothing is as different as two of the same mistakes.” I am incapable of know every variable, every nuance, and every thought or motivation, so I tread carefully with the awareness that everything is new territory.
It’s tough to get bored when everything is new, even if it doesn’t look like it…