Change Management Training Step 4: Focus

Start Less. Finish More.

The clock still counts off 24 hours every day. The calendar still tracks us through 7 days each week, 52 times a year. But our annual 365 days feel different now, because they’re being fragmented. We live our lives now in smaller pieces of time. And we’re still trying to figure out how to deal with this chopped-up existence.

There’s also the accelerating pace of change to consider. As our world speeds up, time seems to shrink. We’re caught up in this “age of instancy”— we even help feed the frenzy—and that adds to the feeling of stress.

Most of us cram our lives too full of things that take more from us than they give. We struggle under the “burden of choice,” as over-stimulation makes it too easy for us to over-consume and over-commit. We pile our plates too high as we move through the cafeteria line of choices of things to do. But much of this food fails to satisfy. Life ends up being too full. We over-indulge, and our punishment is a more pressured existence.

It’s also important to note that so much of our work now is knowledge work. Using the head. Thinking. That takes a lot of mental energy. And again, it’s not a task that we easily leave at the office. We carry this work with us even as we’re involved in an array of other activities. In fact, it is this “multi-tasking” that helps characterize our fragmented waking hours.

To fight the fragmentation of our days and work weeks, we can start with this guideline: Start less, finish more.

We need to learn how to say no...mainly to ourselves. Instead of overdosing on all the choices and options we have to pick from in terms of how we spend our time, let’s single out those things we truly need and want to do. In a world that confronts us with this much complexity, we must seek simplicity.

Another approach that helps us balance ourselves is to break out of our harried routines. We tend to bounce from one thing to the next without focusing on a problem, worry, or task long enough to complete it or reach resolution. This keeps us busy, but it doesn’t bring meaningful results. We’re better off if we take the larger chunks of time needed to genuinely deal with things. The idea is to pin problems to the mat, to truly handle them, instead of being distracted and having them come back later to plague us again.

Also, try to compartmentalize your day to some extent. There’s a time not to multi-task. Give yourself periods now and then where you operate with singleness of focus and where you don’t let stuff swarm into your mental space.

So set some limits. And do something you want to do—daily. Something you can enjoy. Let it refresh your mind, recharge your spirit, and prepare you to deal more effectively with tomorrow.

"He had decided to live forever or die in the attempt." —Joseph Heller