Monthly Archives: February 2011

The power of Focus

Once upon a time it used to take me ninety minutes from the moment I rolled out of bed to when I sat down at my desk. That was when my work and home were fifty miles and fifty minutes apart.

Thirteen years later, it still takes me ninety minutes to get to work, but these days my commute is only eight minutes.

Where did the time go? Yes, I am a little older and creakier than I once was, but that’s not it. My morning routine is longer than it used to be; making coffee, moisturizing and doing some warming up exercises add perhaps ten minutes to my routine, but even that does not come close to explaining the discrepancy. There is a big chunk of time unaccounted for.

A week ago I sat down and gave this some serious thought. I came to the conclusion that Here are the real problems:

  • Going to bed too late: Back in the days of the long commute I used to be “up with the lark”, but that came at a price: I had to be in bed by 10PM. Somewhere along the line I had a species transplant and became an “Owl”; still scurrying around at 11 “like a bad child”. Her Ladyship often has to beat me with a proverbial stick to get me into bed before midnight.
  • Lying awake: After opening my eyes I would often lie abed for an hour
  • Spending too much time doing irrelevant and unproductive things. Too often I sit down in front of the computer “Just to check my e-mail” and twenty-five minutes later I am still sitting there, wondering what happened. I call this “Arsing about“; the Internet can become a HUGE waste of time if you let it.
  • Not thinking ahead: Ever walked from one room to another and then forgot why you went there? Me too — I walk the length of the house several more times than I need to.

The past week I decided to make some changes:

  • Get to bed early. Too many Americans are sleep-deprived, which explains why we are caffeine-addicted and Starbucks is a billion-dollar company.
  • Get up when I opened my eyes instead of waiting for the rapture.
  • Stay away from time sinks. If I have to check my e-mail, I do so without sitting down, then I walk away before I get distracted.
  • Think ahead: Take a few seconds to think about what I am doing, and if I can re-order or combine that task with another to save time.

The result: This week I have gotten up earlier and gotten to work earlier. The ninety-minute bed-to-desk process has been repeatably done in about an hour. Next week I hope to get it down to fifty minutes. At work I have been more alert, more productive, less bored and far more fulfilled.

It hasn’t been easy; my body still wants to stay up late in the evenings, and lie awake in the mornings. I have to constantly fight distractions and think about my next move. My body constantly wants to revert to its former lassitude, but my mind knows that life goes better if you have a plan.

And that. my friends, is the power of focus.

Now Reading: The Lost Fleet: Relentless by Jack Campbell