Posts Tagged ‘focus’

Overwhelmed and frustrated. Too many tasks and unrealistic expectations. Execute flawlessly the first time – no time for mistakes. Rather than serenity of flow, I spent the last week working under tangled, choking stress. How do I free myself and find flow in the chaos? It escaped me this week. I’ll have another chance next week. At least I’ve learned more about myself and it’s a new day. These are the three most egregious enemies of flow I’ve found and what to do about them.


Let’s ask Kathy. I’ve become the answer source and problem solver at work for the many projects going on in my group. An endless stream of emails, phone calls, and people stopping by my office for “a quick question”. Where does it all end? I’ll tell you. It begins with no.

It’s really my own fault – I’ve unwittingly trained people for this behavior. My nature and strength is showing empathy, helping, and nurturing. In using these strengths, I have made a habit of dropping attention to what I’m working on to respond to others. At day’s end, others have finished their work and I end up staying late or taking work home so I can concentrate without interruptions. By then, I’m feeling resentful and flow is nowhere to be found. I can’t get past the daily grind tasks to my real work – the work that is creative and fulfilling; work that energizes rather than drains.

A few weeks ago, I managed to find flow in the midst of the chaos. I know it can be done. Practice eliminating interruptions. Defend your boundaries. Let go of the ego’s insatiable appetite to be needed. Say no. No to meetings. No to email. No to interruptions. Close the door. No, lock the door. Work in a remote location and assign tasks. Forward calls directly to voicemail. Turn off email. The world does not come to an end. People actually answer their own questions or find the answers they need for themselves. Others will always allow you to do their work for them – do your own work.

Give yourself permission to work without interruptions for a block of time. I need a minimum of 2 hours, but 4 is better. Train your colleagues and staff to respect your time. Set office hours, respond to voice and email messages at specific times, don’t answer knocks at the door. If you are lucky enough to be a cubicle dweller, wear headphones and purchase a cubicle door. When I was desperate to get some pressing work done and implemented these tactics, I couldn’t believe the difference. Not only did the work get done; I actually enjoyed the creative process of the work and went home to do more creative stuff in the evening. But, alas, I was a backslider this week. The difficulty is staying the course. It’s been said that it takes about a month of diligent practice to form a new habit (I find it takes me more like 3 months) – but oh so worth it!


I read somewhere that your brain’s ability to function while multi-tasking is similar to your brain in an impaired state. I believe it. Trying to constantly shift my attention leaves me feeling drained and exhausted. Not much gets done and what does get done is not my best work. When I resort to multi-tasking to be the super woman at work or for others, I find that I end up scattered, stressed and sassy. I can just imagine how I come across to others in this state – definitely not the poised, strong, confident woman I want to project.

Flow requires focus. Many women are afflicted with the idea that the only way to get everything done is to do many things at the same time– me included. Let go of this. As much as possible, focus your attention on a single task. Be present. Allow yourself to find energy and enjoyment in one thing at a time. As with interruptions, the magic word for multi-tasking is no – don’t do it.

About a month ago, I had more responsibilities than I could handle. It was killing me. I negotiated a reallocation of responsibilities with my boss that allowed me to focus on critical work. While trying to multi-task to keep every area moving I was headed for burn-out and the work coming out of my group was poor. My staff was not too happy about the transition, but their work and mine is better for it.

The irony of single-tasking is that sometimes you actually get more done. Even if you don’t get more done, a single task completed in flow results in higher quality and contributes to your well-being. This well-being then cascades through your interactions to others and that positive energy benefits everyone around you.

Breaking Healthy Routines

One area I’ve been working on this year is discipline to create and maintain healthy habits. This week I noticed that I allowed stress to derail my best healthy practices. For the sake of allotting more time to get the pressing work done that was due this week, I skipped my morning meditation and walk to get to work earlier. I also ended up cutting my lunch breaks short and chose to work while I ate lunch rather that go outside to eat and take a walk. This was followed by several late evenings. By the time I got home, I was not hungry, and craved junk food. The cumulative effect was a drain to my energy and vitality. Not only were my mind and emotions stressed, now I added physical stress.

So far, I’ve discovered flow happens when I’m feeling healthy – spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Distractions from ill health hinder flow. Do those practices that promote well-being. My morning routine sets the tone and creates a welcoming environment for flow. Meditation clears mind clutter. A brisk walk invigorates the body. A healthy breakfast fuels the brain. Quiet reflection renews the spirit. Flow comes from within – nurture and care for yourself.

We each have a unique contribution to the world. Can yours find expression through the cacophony? Finding flow for creative expression is about personal choices we make very day. This week, my choices thwarted flow. Next week, I intend to choose differently.



Read Full Post »