As I navigate the waters of leadership and organizational coaching, the ability to focus my attention is a big challenge, and I’ve observed many clients grappling with the challenges of multitasking. Chances are, you’ve felt the impact of this in your own life as well.
As shared by Leighton Ford in the book The Attentive Life: To live with ‘continuous awareness’ (as naturalist Joseph Wood Krutch put it) in each moment is an art that requires practicing.
The Whirlwind of Daily Life
We’re all too familiar with the culprits of our scattered minds. Our schedules are brimming, not just with work, but with life’s many demands—from shuttling children to their activities to caring for aging parents. The digital distractions are relentless: emails, texts, countless messaging apps, social media, phone calls, and the occasional fax from the past. This constant connectivity brings with it an expectation of instantaneity, which is as exhausting as it is distracting.
Finding Clarity Amid the Coaching Chaos
The question that often surfaces, as it did in my own experiences leading organizations, is how does one manage to do the ‘real work’ amidst this noise? The answer, as Krutch suggests and as my mother echoed during my childhood piano lessons, is practice. But this practice is not just about repetition—it’s about being present and patient with ourselves and others. It’s about being intentional with our focus on what truly matters. Remember, perfection isn’t the starting point; the willingness to begin is.
The Quiet Works Program: A Sanctuary for Focus
Here’s how you can cultivate a practice of focus and patience in your daily routine, inspired by the Quiet Works principles:
- Start Your Day in Silence: Allocate at least five minutes of quiet time each morning. In this short span, contemplate the various roles you play in life—be it a partner, parent, professional, or friend—and identify the single most important task for each role that day.
- In my role as coach for client “B”, the most important thing I must do today is read the business proposal she sent to be discussed at our next session.
- In my role as son, my most important responsibility is to get the next date on the calendar to visit Mom.
- Take 5: Take five minutes, twice a day, and think about something that requires your attention. This brief pause can help you center your thoughts and regain focus.
- Simple Steps for the Overwhelmed: If even this seems daunting, break it down further:
- Take one minute of reflection.
- Identify the most critical task that needs your focus.
- Write it down and place it where it’s always in sight.
- Commit to this for a week and observe the transformation.
These simple practices would have been a boon during my early days in leadership. I remember times when the day seemed to control me rather than the other way around.
Today, these methods are a filter through which I sift the noise, prioritize effectively, and accomplish the essentials.
The Power of Small Changes
As I conclude, I often catch myself underestimating the impact of small, consistent efforts. Yet, I am reminded of how a single red sock can change an entire load of white laundry—a testament to the potency of minor changes.
Embrace these practices, and you may find that, in the grand tapestry of life, it’s the subtle stitches that hold together the pattern of productivity and peace.