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One Thing at a Time

Posted by on March 26th, 2013 with 0 Comments

In the middle of a particular hectic day at work, my good friend and mentor Peter Gaudette would often say, “Glenn, it’s a target-rich environment”.

I loved that phrase for a couple of reasons:

  • It conveyed Peter’s enthusiasm for problem solving.
  • It embodied a “every problem is a gift” philosophy.
  • It suggested that there would always be work for both of us.

The only problem with a ‘target-rich environment’ occurs if you can’t choose just one target.

Devote your entire willpower to mastering one thing at a time; do not scatter your energies.
– Paramahansa Yogananada

This is a recurring challenge for me.

  • I want to be everywhere at once.
    Just today, I told Angie that for our annual November vacation I want to go to Hawaii. Or Mexico. Or Death Valley. Or 10 other places. Can’t we do all of them?
  • I want to do everything at once.
    When I summarize a list of my current projects, most people just laugh. I overcommit my time. I overcommit my resources. I overcommit my energies. Fortunately, most people around me are saner than I. They helpfully remind me that I cannot do what I would like to do.
  • I want to learn everything now.
    A list of everything that I want to learn wouldn’t be a list – it would be a course catalog.

Let’s face it; if Ritalin had been an option when I was young, I would have been patient zero. Thank god it wasn’t…

In place of Ritalin, I’ve learned the importance of boundaries. I manage my attention span through a number of principles that help me focus my energies.

  • I never owned a cell phone until last year.
    I’ve given the number to no one. When I sit with someone to talk, I’m only with him or her.
  • I allow myself only one ‘obsession’ at a time.
    One year, my obsession was learning how to draw.
    The next, it was comic books (I wanted to, and did, design two comic book-based training manuals).
    The following year it was video production.
  • I ‘disconnect’. A lot. Some might say that I’m disconnected.
    I go hiking. I watch no news programs (seriously, none. I only know what’s happening from water cooler conversation). I watch very little television. I take five weeks of vacation a year. I stare at water. I stare at fire. I watch birds in our back yard.
  • I constantly refer to my mission statement.
    If an activity doesn’t align with my mission, it gets de-emphasized.

These principles keep me on target… barely.
What works for you?

SMART as Hell Exercise:

  1. Review: your current activities.
  2. Evaluate: whether those activities are focused or scattered.
  3. Ask: would you be more effective if your activities were focused?
  4. List: Three ‘boundaries’ you could put in place to maintain your focus.

Share your comments, ideas, questions, and reflections below.

 

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