The Cougar, known as the Mountain Lion to many of us, has inspired me to write this blog. Yes, I’ve known the Cougar throughout my life, and had a few encounters. She is one wonderful teacher. She knows all about FOCUS and AWARENESS, she has mastered PATIENCE, she sometimes struggles with CHANGE, but soon adjusts never losing her sense of GRACE, and she is the ultimate when it comes to living in the NOW – the PRESENT.
Focus! How many times has someone told you to Focus? In school, parents, professors, writing coaches, and the list could go on forever. I’ve heard it most of my life, and now it is easier to understand the importance of it all. By addressing this, I am hoping it will help many of you who are as tired as I was of having projects in different stages of completion scattered throughout my office, my life, and never knowing where to go or what to do next.
Many writers and creative people struggle with FOCUS, our minds whirling in an unending dance of creating. To sit, with our ‘butt in the chair in front of the computer’ for hours and days at a time overwhelms that sense of creating. Focus is something most of us really have to work at. Watching football this past holiday season with my Dad, has also been an interesting study of FOCUS. It isn’t what plagues just writers, it plagues the whole of society. No one is immune to this. Watching receivers poised to catch a ball, then losing their focus and dropping the ball.
First, I realize that none of us can just work on one project from start to finish in this day and age. There is a lot to do, a lot going on and we have to do it all. The trick is that when you do sit down to work on something, being able to FOCUS for the time you can give that specific project is huge!
Let’s take a glance at what has caused us to lose FOCUS first.
I have always believed the idea of ‘multi-tasking’ has played a huge role in my inability to stick with anything very long. For years, I touted my prowess in ‘multi-tasking’ – employers loved this and every job description asked for someone with this capability. The bosses I had through the years took this to the extreme. Folders and files open, flipping from one to the next at a moment’s notice, and scattered from hell to breakfast! Just too much going on. Now I credit their version of ‘multi-tasking’ as the reason I am afflicted with this.
That, and Social Media, Texting, and the ‘Brain Games.’ I really fell for these games – causing me to focus intently for 1 or 2 minutes. It wasn’t long before I realized I couldn’t FOCUS on anything after the first couple of minutes. I quit the games and got really serious about expanding my ‘length of focus’ – I have found a way that works for me. Not that I have discovered it myself. I am sure others before me have probably come up with something similar, but it works and it allows me to FOCUS on each individual project and see it to completion. Here’s what I did.
- I have a picture of the Cougar on my desk to remind me of her powers, which I take as my lessons in this process.
- I started back meditating. Yes, it took me some time before I could sit for a whole 20 minutes. That was a test of my wills for sure. Now I meditate not only in the morning, but before I tackle an editing project, it gives me such depth and focus.
- I make a list and lay it on my desk of each project that needs work. Yes, you heard me right. I’m still doing multi-tasking but focusing on the process. These lists are a lifesaver for me as I have this writing website where I offer classes (which I am updating and activating this month.) I edit manuscripts for others and if they are self publishing, I help them through that stage, and I have my own writing projects. Then I have www.ThunderMountainTea.com which is a retail format. I blend my own teas, hand-draw and water color my own labels, each individually, and ship. Let’s not forget, I am also a Feng Shui Consultant; and, I also take care of my soon-to-be 92 year old father and my two canines.
- Let’s give the List one more ‘shout-out’ here. Very early each morning over a cup of tea and following my morning meditation, I sit and look at my list from the day before. My lists look like an outline. I put the projects onto the list in order of deadlines. So the first Line of the list may say: So and So’s Manuscript or that of the working title and the author’s name with final date due. Then indented under it, will read, (a) First Read Through with edits and that due date; (b) Send So and So an Email with all edits suggested and due date; (c) and then it continues on. I can then cross through each item I have completed and I am not looking at an entire manuscript and becoming overwhelmed, which has a tendency to dampen my FOCUS. (There is one caveat to all of this, and that is the other writer. Sometimes their responses are not as forthcoming as I would like, but I have to adjust – another lesson from the Cougar.) I find by breaking things down like this, it is easier for me to FOCUS and as we get towards the end of the project, I then put everything else on hold and finish it. As with my own writing, I may have several going at once, but the minute I feel one of them really taking hold, then I put the others aside and FOCUS entirely on this one project to get it completed.
- Since my list is a Word Document, which I print out, it is easy to go in and remove finished projects and add new ones. Then, reprint and add to the binder. I am big on binders. I need to have everything I need at my fingertips. I don’t enjoy reading a large amount of text on the computer. Prefer to hold the printed copy, and do my reading.
- When I don’t know how to do something, I remember the Cougar and her Patience, and I just work through it and it always comes together, whereas before I would get up and just walk away out of frustration.
- If I am interrupted or spending time with Dad, I then go back and sit in silence for a few minutes to regain my FOCUS.
- Now, the biggie. Because I no longer have to keep saying “I’m just too busy” – Because I have learned to FOCUS and get things done, I am now learning how to relax. That has never been part of my day. There’s nothing like knowing that I am up to date and not stressed over anything. It works beautifully.
Here’s to FOCUS and to all of you, Wishing you Peace – Truth – Wonder in 2019!