Just Seven Things

Exploring why and how we do what we do, and how we can do it better

Archive for the tag “Focus”

What Forrest Gump is Still Teaching Me

What do The Dog Whisperer and Forest Gump have in common?

Both cause reflection about how the average human’s sense and awareness of past and future can be debilitating to performance in the present (if your mind makes the random connections that mine does)

In my post, Our Simple Minds: Mind Tricks, I explored a simple view that if we remove the conscious barriers or layers between identification of the need for the action, and the action itself, then it appears that we get more done with less resistance.

Drill Sergeant: Gump! What’s your sole purpose in this army?
Forrest Gump: To do whatever you tell me, drill sergeant!

If we remove the conscious resistance to the task and just do, then we’re focusing on our own drill sergeant of task completion.

What occurred to me watching The Dog Whisperer is how we as humans debilitate ourselves by carrying our baggage of history in our heads, and the blanket of stress of expectation and future fears. We bring this to bear on our treatment of dogs, and they don’t know why. They live in the now. Yes they have programmed responses, but as soon as these are removed then their only concern is the here and now. We’re the ones who often screw them up by bizarre behaviour tainted by how they were previously, or our concerns about how they’re going to respond. We miss the mindfulness of the here and now.

It’s very easy to ignore the work you should be doing when you’re rambling with something pleasurable or distracting: the reading, exploring the web, or online conversations. Most of us can lose ourselves in something for minutes if not chunks of hours.  The great thing is that we can lose ourselves in work and task completion in exactly the same way by just tricking ourselves into action. Even just reversing the above pleasurable rambling scenario would work. Rather than ignoring the work you should be doing; ignore the distractions by planning a whole days worth of reading, exploring the web, online conversations etc. etc. Then just ramble with a bit of work. Just start something knowing that you ‘should’ be reading/ surfing/ chatting etc.

The strangest thing happens: you start work without resistance. It flows until you’re a bit spent. Then you can force yourself to start ‘work’ on what you have planned to do……… just see how long it takes you to get distracted by work again though ;-)

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Brain Training When We Only Have a Neanderthal Syllabus

Brainy People by Sanja Gjenero

Brainy People by Sanja Gjenero

The difficult balance we have to manage as human animals with a brain of two hemispheres is contrasted well in Will’s comment. Independent but obviously joined and synergistic. It’s how well we know about how the different personalities of our brain work together that is one of the roots of our personal effectiveness and success.

The planned, logical and rigorous administrator on the left wants to analyse, intepret and categorise. It gives a script to our experience of the world and our interactions within it.

The creative, artistic lateral thinker on the right wants to muse, develop, connect and expand. It experiences our world and our interactions within it, and is the source of apparently independent creative thoughts, ideas and constructions.

The administrator and the artist live together very happily for the purposes of you being born, living a life and dieing. Whether you have optimised either your happiness or potential greatness over this lifespan (assuming a positive desire to do this) is a matter of better understanding:

– how the artist and administrator work together best as a team. Their preferences, strengths and weaknesses: how they can organise themselves better to bring out the best of each other

– how they conflict. Their allowable weaknesses (in Belbin’s terms) are best handled when transparent, articulated and understood (without emotion or frustration)

– how your conscious handling of their other-than-conscious behaviours can also help improve their relationship and productivity as a unit – or not

Each of these three bullets is at least a shelf of potential books in your local bookstore. Add in the extra dimensions of personal preferences/ personality type/ psychometrics and energy levels/ chemical mood impacts, and you end up with a smörgåsbord of levers/ techniques/ aspects to manage. Throw in the fact that this analysis is framed by only a conscious assessment of the tip of the neuroscience iceberg. That we have both the rest of the visible (current consciously understood) iceberg to explore, as well as the vast depths underwater.

It may mean it is a long time before we are capable of consciously understanding how to optimise our happiness or potential greatness.

Further thought: Interesting research ‘The human brain is on the edge of chaos’

Does Ruthless Focus and Time Management Require you to Care Less?

After a week’s holiday relaxing, thinking and practicing my knowledge management, I think I’ve come to a conclusion; albeit one I’ve reached before.

I’ve always had moments of clarity in my productivity when I’ve felt like I had the meaning of life (in a productivity sense :-) at my fingertips.

These moments mainly occur when a project or task which is primarily very important suddenly becomes more urgent. At these points in time I find I am very clear about what I should be spending my time on.

The reasons for this are clear. You are given some set of priorities by external events that you internally agree with (Covey’s Important and Urgent align).

What is very interesting is how my relationship changes with the other ‘previously-prioritized’ items in my life. Firstly, their importance fades away. So far: so obvious. But here’s the fascinating observation to me. It’s as though they never were important. The clarity I have is remarkable in that I see the other non-important items for what they are. Their true lack of importance or lower priority is suddenly obvious.

So what happens when this isn’t the case? When there isn’t a sudden important/urgent. I personally find that the noise of tasks and actions all merges into one. The general stress of ‘to-do’ completion drowns some of my ability to prioritize more subtley. But more importantly, my barriers to the entry of the tasks that I’m not due to be focussing on at that point in time seem so much lower.

The working solution for me? I’m going to trial out a bit of bloody-minded ignorance. Let me act as if I were always in those moments of transparency, and see where that gets me……

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