Committing to Focus

Posted on Mon 05 August 2013 in General

I don't make New Years resolutions. Not for any particular reason. I'm sure at one point in my youth I eschewed them out of some sense of duty to gen-x non-conformity and just never got into the habit of making them so now that I'm staring middle-age in the face the whole enterprise seems a bit silly.

However, each summer, as I have done since I was born, I take a trip to Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba, where I am the proud owner of a very tiny (sub 300 sq ft) cabin. I typically spend about 2 weeks there, alternating between recharging my batteries by reading and generally keeping to myself and visiting with the various family members who have their own tiny cabins or live around there.

At some point in the past couple of years I realized, this trip (and in particular, returning from it) represents my new year.

It was never a conscious decision to make a 'post-summer-vacation-resolution' I just noticed I was doing it. Sometimes there are more than one, sometimes they're related to my personal life but most often I'm resolving to do something differently while at work.

This year, I'm hoping to do something that will cut across both my private and professional lives. I'm resolving to be more focused, and more methodical and to basically make an attempt to see if I can re-grow some of the attention span that I used to have but has atrophied over the years due to an advanced case of NADD. Unlike dear Rands, with whom I generally agree wholeheartedly, I don't really see NADD as a good thing. I'm firmly with the scientists that say multitasking really doesn't work.

Even if there's the odd super-human can pull it off, which I seriously doubt - I think those who claim the ability are delusional - I know I can't do it. Three years ago I changed jobs and the environment I came from (high-walled cubicles, library-voices culture) could not have been more different from where I went (open concept, loud, IM clients and the ubiquitous chatrooms). For me the difference it made on my ability to focus was striking. Like many of my teammates, I adapted by using headphones (often playing nothing but white noise) and ignoring the chatrooms and jabber client for periods of the day. The experience, particularly the contrast to what I was used to, tought me clearly that I go much faster when I focus on one thing until it is done.

So the plan is to focus more, but how?. Well, for one, I'm going to be more mindful of it and try to notice when I get distracted. Then I can make changes to help reduce the distraction. The first step is to return to using only a single monitor at work. More on that later.