Finding Focus Series: Part 1
This year, I’ve seen a lot of people talking about refocusing themselves for 2021. Getting back on track and finding their focus. (To tell the truth, I also saw the same last January). It makes me so excited though because I know it can happen! I am proof it can happen!
And y’all it’s a really hard thing for me to do. My husband says I tend to follow breadcrumbs down rabbit holes and become distracted by the slightest thing. (He knows not to show me a tweet or post because I will read all the comments and a half hour later I’ve forgotten what I was doing!)
I didn’t feel like it was something I wanted to do for 2020 but somehow I found focus and am amazed that I did with the amount of distractions I now have. I didn’t want to keep everything that worked for me to myself though, so I am sharing here what truly helped me focus in 2020 (even with more distractions than I’ve ever had).
1. Vision and Goals
It’s plain and simple so I had to state it: you can’t focus unless you know what it is you want to focus on (vision) and how you will measure that focus (goals).
Vision – Have a vision of what you want – yes, your heart’s desire. What does it look like? What does it feel like for you? If you don’t have a vision, how do you know what you want to focus on?
Even if you know you want to focus on a good habit, like getting up early every morning. There is vision in this. Why do you want to do it. What will it feel like and look like when you do this every day? If you have only the smallest of visions that’s great! It’s a reason to get up in the morning! Start here. Do this one thing and focus. In fact, I read somewhere it’s best to focus on one habit at a time.
Then there are the big visions – this past year I used my big visions to drive my focus. This is the where you see yourself in 10 years vision. My big vision focus for I wanted to concentrate on this year is to be an artist and printmaker, selling my work individually and licensing illustrations. (I have 11 big visions for 10 years from now and this is the one I really want and can focus on right now).
Goals – How will you know when you are on track to accomplishing your vision? These are of course long and short term goals to get where you want to be. I had goals of just creating art 6 days a week. I didn’t want to pressure myself with a number of pieces to create since a lot of art I create I don’t like and will scrap it half way through. So it was more important for me to put in the time creating without the pressure of what and how many to create.
First find your vision, the driving force behind your focus and work out the goals you need to meet to get you there.
2. Take Account and Find the Time
When we went into quarantine all of the sudden on a Friday in March, I was thrown into a situation where I wasn’t sure if I could get my work done and aimlessly wandered through the house wondering what task I should do next and wondered when one of my girls was going to need me next. (On top of checking the news, social media etc to see how everyone else was coping). I was aimless and unfocused. Sound familiar?
But that vision was searing in my head and I knew I had to take action to make it work. I decided to take account of my days and find when I could focus. When my girls were toddlers, gathering every bit of my attention, I was learning photography and trying to begin a business. A mentor at the time, gave two suggestions to help focus on my girls and my goals both. First, find pockets of time you can work even if I needed to work fast, diligently, and without break (nap time). Second, to do this I had to keep track of what I was spending my time on currently.
This past year I made the hourly tracker you can download for free to help do this. Then after I analyzed what I was doing, I was able to go in and reorganize that by creating a daily schedule for myself. I took out the parts I knew weren’t important and let them burn. I filled in with dedicated time to create. The hard part would be to stick to it. But I told myself it was important that I do. More important than anything else.
Here, I realized that the biggest chunk of time I would have with minimal interruption was from 8 am until 11 am – when my girls would be on their zoom calls for school. So that time became my focus time – the time where I would only work on creating art. Any other time I could fill in with other necessary tasks.
It was difficult at first, especially since I really wanted to get a load of laundry going, or get the kitchen cleaned up after breakfast – you know all the mindless tasks that are easy and make you feel accomplished. But I forced myself to work on creating strictly during those times. If I could create outside of those times, even better but I made that big block of time my focus time, and I worked quickly and diligently knowing once 11 rolled around, kids would start getting antsy, want lunch and I would need a break.
I worked throughout the day but I wasn’t as focused and allowed for the distractions and needs to come into play. As well I gave myself grace to take the rest of the day and chill out if I needed it.
First, take account of how you spend your time now (use my hourly tracker if you need). Second, find your chunk of time or times that you know you can put in the work. It may not be in the morning for 3 or 4 hours. Instead it may be at 9 for 2 hours or 5 for only 1 hour. (One of my accountability partners wakes at 4 am and works for 3 hours to get hers in – that’s commitment).
3. Make Boundaries
Once I had set up a schedule I had to stick to it, so I posted it up where I would always see it to keep myself on track. Next I had to make boundaries. Especially with my kids. My youngest would ask me a hundred questions in an hour if I let her, so I started directing her to her teacher instead. That way I could be free to work. It took about a week but she got into the habit of asking her teacher instead of me if she had a question or any issues.
I also had to set up a strict schedule for the kids’ snack and lunch times so I could keep that time protected without them asking for food or constantly going to get it and me wondering what they were up to. I also had to set up a strict rule that they stay in my studio space during that time so if something did come up and they needed me, I was right there. I was able to keep an eye on them, making sure they stayed on task. Also, I’ve found if I’m sitting in proximity, and they see me working they tend to do the same.
Make clear boundaries and communicate this with anyone else who needs to know.
4. Remove Distractions
This might fall in with boundaries, but I removed all distractions. I kept my phone in a separate room where I couldn’t hear it and did not check it until the time was through. Drastic maybe, but it worked. I found I was spending hours added up over just one minute of checking a text message or notification that came across my phone. And just putting it on silent isn’t enough for me because if I hit a tough spot in creating, I would look for a distraction, my phone right there was too easy. I also put my computer in focus mode. I made sure I had plenty of water, and didn’t allow the distraction of food, daily news, social media, or even eating to get in my way.
Remove any and all distractions during this time.
5. Accountability Partners
For me, this was one of the biggest helps I could get. Other artists who held me accountable to my goals each week. They were encouraging, helpful problem solvers, and I knew if I said I wanted to get something done, I’d better have it done next time I talked to them. Actually what motivated me more was seeing each one of them doing what they said they were going to do. They were all in similar situations and I knew if they could do it, then I had no excuse. They only fell short of doing the work for me. They have been a great influence and it wouldn’t have worked if any of us had started giving excuses to each other – then we all might have fallen apart.
Get an accountability partner that will encourage you, help solve problems, and actually hold you accountable to what you want to focus on while also being a good model by keeping their focus as well.
6. No Excuses
It takes discipline and work to stay focused. No question. So I find it’s easy often to start making excuses or blame other things or people in your life when you aren’t able to focus. Here you have to ask yourself if you are avoiding the hard work or is it truly something that needs to be addressed. Are you setting up the boundaries or are you letting them fall? Are you giving in to distractions or did you decide your focus/vision is more important? Putting blame on circumstances or people doesn’t resolve anything and it doesn’t get you anywhere except maybe a fun little pity party. This is hard. If it wasn’t important it wouldn’t be hard. Saying no to my kids and putting up strict boundaries for them to follow at those times was hard. Now it’s a habit. Now we have reasons to celebrate when we all get so much work done. Now we aren’t trying to catch up or be reactive to everything. Instead I feel more in control. Even if we go off the rails every now and then, it’s ok. I don’t feel like I’ve lost control. I know I can easily get us back on track.
Finally, we all have the same hours in the day. No more, no less. It’s what you do with it that is up to you. Don’t make excuses.
Next week I want to talk a little about the things we can get caught up in that keep us unfocused. And I want to leave you with a new free desktop or phone wallpaper for you to download. I just love the quote by Marie Forleo and hope it inspires you to focus every day on what’s important. Enter your email below to access it immediately! Thanks for reading and I do really hope you are able to focus on your goals this year.