Find yourself dousing proverbial fires all day? Frazzled, knackered, literally burned out by the time the whistle blows? When you’ve barely got a handle on this moment, let alone today, it’s exceedingly difficult to plan effectively for the all-important future. Then you’re left with the grim inevitability that terrorized Macbeth into an early grave:
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death …
Don’t be one of Shakespeare’s fools just following those streetlamps thinking they’re making progress. Adopt a mission-based mindset, focusing most of your time and energy on those thoughts and activities that move you closer to your personal purpose, your calling, the legacy you want to leave.
“That’s easy for you to say, Focus Nerds! You don’t have to deal with the shit that rolls downhill in my daily life!”
Of course we do. We, too, find ourselves victimized – brutalized – by what author Douglas Rushkoff refers to as “Present Shock,” the “continuous now” of digitized instantaneity. Paradoxically, focus tools like ours can backfire if they encourage us to concentrate on this continuous and perpetual now. See, that makes the future – where we leave our mark – maddeningly elusive. We get a temporary sense of accomplishment – a quick dopamine dose – by ticking off items on our endless to-do lists, and whacking the various moles that pop up in between.
But are we getting any closer to what really matters to us, the big picture stuff?
May we suggest you experiment with allotting time to the more productive side of the Eisenhower Decision Matrix? We find attributed to Dwight D. Eisenhower, expert general and eventual Cold War president, this legendary and profound axiom:
“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”
Makes sense, right? But much easier said than done.
Look, some things – especially in our über-now-oriented (digital) world, where Caitlyn Jenner’s latest tweet gets as much airtime in our minds as major policy decisions – require us to deal with now. You can’t put them off, or the consequences might be dire.
Or do many of those things only seem important, because we constantly confuse the concepts of urgent and important? Because the tech maestros of app engineering, like those who design slot machines – like dope peddlers – manipulate our neurochemistry in order to set off our alarm bells whenever they want?
Cell phone buzzing? Urgent, yes. But almost never important.
Bottom line is trying to put out undying fires sucks time from that inelastic and finite resource, leaving less for what really matters. So what’s the secret? How to do you rise above the quotidian firefighter in terms of your focus? What behavior can you adopt to catapult your progress into the top 1 percent of high-achievers? Is it to put your firehose and Halligan tool down and simply let the motherf****r burn?
The secret is twofold:
1. Learn to distinguish quickly between real urgency and ostensible urgency. The roof’s not really on fire because your email inbox blinky thing is going off. And NOTHING important ever happened in the history of the Milky Way on Facebook. Nothing. Ever.
2. Budget lots of time and energy to fire prevention. Tomorrow’s emergencies are often the result of lack of planning today. Don’t leave the stove and iron on today – don’t leave canisters of flammables near frayed wires – and you’ll dramatically decrease the incidence of fire. Contingency planning – and more on that in a future blog – “insurance,” etc. is important.
Imagine yourself on death’s door tomorrow. Do it. Will you express a sense of accomplishment because your inbox is almost empty? Because you never let a call go unanswered? Because you entertained every inane interruption of your mission?
Select your favorite Focus@Will channel. Set the session for at least an hour. And forward your mission. All the other stuff can wait. Check it out at focusatwill.com.