Archive for the ‘Focus’ Category


I have previously written about the advantages and disadvantages of working at home.  Today was another example of that for me.

Last weekend when I was reviewing my calendar for this week, I noticed that I was the only one of my four-person team scheduled to be in the office today.  One person was taking the day off and the other two had informed the rest of us that they would be working from home today.  I looked at my calendar, saw no in-person meetings planned, and promptly sent out a notice to my team that I, too, would work from home today.

It’s always a pleasure to work sitting in my favorite recliner in comfortable clothes with my dog, Callie (shown here), curled up beside me.  I appreciate the fact that my manager has given our team the OK to work from home one day a week if we so choose.  I rarely do it, but it’s nice having that option.

Today was an example of how you can focus on one major task to get off your plate in the quiet of your home (assuming your home is quiet), in the end getting far more done than you might otherwise accomplish with the distractions found in the office.  I tackled a dreaded task today that would normally take several days in the office because of the interruptions and distractions.  I haven’t completed it yet, but I will before I go to bed.  It will be a significant accomplishment in an area I haven’t made progress all year.  It was much needed.

Some people concentrate best with headphones on and music blaring.  Some have other noises or surroundings such as a coffee shop that help them focus on getting something done.  For me, it’s the quiet of my man cave with no sounds except occasional conversation with my dog.  Put me in that environment and not only can I get work done, but I can work for far more hours in the day than I ever would in an office.

Companies need to allow their people to implement leap year lesson #224 – Work where you are most productive.

I forgot what day it was yesterday. The days blend one into the next so seamlessly here at The Abbey of Gethsemani that there really is no point in knowing which day of the week it is (except Sunday when the schedule is slightly different for worship, but the abbey’s bells would warn you of that change). I can’t remember a recent time when I had no external clues to tell me what day it was – no work calendar of scheduled meetings, no regular TV shows to watch that indicated it was either “Dancing With the Stars” night or time for “Survivor,” no rattling of the trash cans to the curb for the weekly Monday pickup – nothing.

It was wonderful not knowing.

Eventually I gave in to the temptation and looked at my watch that indicated it was Wednesday. At least I then knew I hadn’t yet overstayed my welcome!

We all know that time goes quickly when we are thoroughly enjoying ourselves. That happens to most of us with regularity. But when was the last time you actually were so wrapped up in what you were doing that you didn’t have a clue what day it was, nor did it matter?

I think I just had a glimpse of eternity…and it was very good.

Leap year lesson # 89 is You may find yourself when you’re lost in the present.

Where I work, white noise is pumped in to make it harder to hear people farther away from you. When I first moved to my previous building where there was no white noise for a few days, you could hear anything anyone said all the way at the other side of the floor. It was strange. It was distracting. I was reminded of the Jim Carrey movie “Bruce Almighty” where he gets to play God and hears all the prayers of people coming at him at once. That’s what the floor felt like without the white noise.

Then when they added white noise, we thought it was deafening at first, like some constant dull roar that we would always find bothersome. Yet before long it was not noticeable at all. We got used to it.

Today for a short while the white noise was absent. Suddenly we could hear conversations going on all around that we wouldn’t normally hear. Jokingly, the person across from me exclaimed “I can’t work in these conditions!” I thought about the old cartoon with the hibernating bear being disturbed by some slight sound and then yelling “I can’t stand noise!”

It wasn’t too many minutes before the white noise came roaring back. People sighed with relief that it was no longer quiet. A lady on the other side of me then countered the earlier neighbor’s comment by saying of the white noise “I can’t work in these conditions!” We all laughed and went on about our business.

People have different tolerance levels for noise, whether for work or pleasure or even sleep. Some work with earphones listening to their favorite music. Some like the TV or music on at home as background noise regardless of what they’re doing. Some like a fan blowing while they sleep regardless of the room temperature.

I find that for some tasks it is OK to have background noise, while for others I need silence to concentrate. I’m turning off the TV more and more in order to focus on tasks more important.

Consider the possibility that on occasion you will hear best in the silence. Leap year lesson #41 is Know when to adjust the volume.

Do you ever find your mind wandering when you read? Before you know it, you have “read” a paragraph or two and you couldn’t pass the simplest test on what you just read. Other worries of the day or what’s ahead on your schedule somehow take precedence and cause you to lose focus.

One way to overcome that lack of focus is to read out loud. Obviously, you can’t do that in all situations (especially in public), but when you can, give it a whirl. You’ll find that, yes, it does slow you down since you can’t read out loud as fast as you can read silently. But the tradeoff is that when you read out loud you see, speak and hear the words which, when combined, help you focus and improve your understanding of what you read.

That’s why in my daily Bible readings I read them in a place where I am alone (except maybe for the dog) and I read the text out loud. I don’t read the additional study notes that accompany the text out loud because I don’t consider them as important.

So if you have trouble focusing when reading, if you find yourself having to backtrack and re-read things, then consider combining several senses at once to improve your focus. Try leap year lesson #16: Read important things out loud.

The most memorable advice I ever read regarding to-do lists is this:

  1. Make a list of all you need to do.
  2. Prioritize the items from most important to least important.
  3. Do the first thing on the list.
  4. Tear the list up, throw it away and do what you want the rest of the day because you’ve already done the most important thing!

I like it! It isn’t terribly practical and I don’t advise trying it out at work for an extended period of time, but you have to admit it’s kind of intriguing.

Even though the suggestion may not work long term, it does have one thing going for it – the need to pay attention to the most important thing on your list. And I believe the way to do that is to get it done early in the day.

When I get to work, there are usually very few people on my floor. I like to get there earlier than most because it gives me about an hour of time to get things done with little chance of interruptions. You can bet that as more people arrive, the day quickly fills up with conversations, meetings, phone calls, emails, etc. That makes it all the more important to be certain you carve out the time as soon as possible in the day to get done what absolutely, positively must be done.

Eventually, time runs out and/or you’re just too physically tired to do more. You don’t want to reach that point and then realize you let the urgent crowd out the important. It is far better and infinitely more satisfying to know that within a few hours of arriving at work you have knocked off the biggest tasks of the day.

Leap year lesson #13 is Get important things done early.