Admission: I felt totally out of focus at the beginning of our road trip last month. I hadn’t had time to think. Inundated by a barrage of information that I couldn’t keep sorted – much of which I’d permissively self-inflicted – my focus and productivity had taken a back seat to processing incoming items. It was at an unsustainable level. Without time to think, I’d been treading water. It was time for some very personal decision making.
I’d planned our first month’s itinerary at a faster pace than was comfortable. We both need time to absorb a new place. Then I need time to process those impressions and decide how (or even if) I’m going to share them. Traveling in August was a little better, but still felt rushed on the back end; we had a lot of ground to cover to get home. We would have done better with more time to think and just “be.” Our decision making in the future will be based on this valuable experience.
Inspired by a friend’s technology fast, I have emulated and implemented my own changes. Unsubscribing from Google Reader items and email lists, I’m more mindful of my focus. I’m taking note of those with whom I’m interacting for best benefit.
Taking time to think doesn’t mean to not do. It’s just that the things I’m choosing to do, aside from non-negotiable client assignments and deadlines, are chosen through a new lens of personal freedom – my time to think. So, instead of writing lengthier blog posts (like this one, ha!), I uploaded photos and random observations on PassingThru’s Facebook page. Instead of getting mired in my Inbox, I liberally deleted without reading.
This kind of deeper thinking is separate from general decision making. It’s not about researching pros and cons or hedging outcomes. Instead, it’s zooming even further out to take in the biggest picture. It’s about figuring out who you are and where you fit. Pete and I have made a big life decision and its timetable is fairly rapid. It’s the level of decision making that defines a major segment of one’s life (more on that later). Now that the focus has been defined, other decisions will manifest out of a thoughtful and deliberative platform.
For the indecisive, Ramit Sethi advocates a process that starts with risk-minimal choices, and he talks about how “aiming for perfection is a great way to do nothing.” Big picture thinking – not the “should I do this or that,” but the “how do I want my life to be” – has to happen first before you begin any of the doing. A decision making system that aligns with your core values will combat random aspects that waste so much energy. Things are way easier to do or not do if you know who you are. Where you need to be and what you need to do come out of that.
Sometimes we aren’t even aware how random our days are, compared with how deliberate and focused they could be. Scott Belsky, in September 2012’s Entrepreneur Magazine print edition article entitled “Stop Killing Your Ideas,” advises scheduling time to think. “Without realizing it, most of us are living a life of reactionary work flow. . . [I]nstead of using our energy in a proactive way, we spend it reacting, living at the mercy of the latest bit of incoming information.” This significant difference sometimes gets lost in productivity circles, where the emphasis on cleaning up your inbox or checking off a list doesn’t address why the items are there in the first place.
In a lack of focus double whammy, my creativity went on strike intermittently during this time. My ideas felt stale; the mix of overall noise was tumultuous Uninspired to take action, I decided to give myself time to think. At first, travel upstream against the frantic information and digital activity around me felt more strenuous and overwhelming. But after persevering for several days, I realized I had put myself in the sort of moment between the cacophony of tuning up and the tapping of the conductor’s baton. The expectancy was there, even if I was still not in a place of beginning the work. So I relaxed. And continued to think.
One of the most delightful and remarkable moments we experienced in the Canadian Rockies was on Marmot Road, south of Jasper, Alberta. We’d been told it was the way to a place the locals call “Edge of the World.” (See #3 in 5 Hikes in Jasper, Alberta You Won’t Find in Parks Canada’s Day Hiking Maps). For several miles we drove behind a solitary crow, soaring in the roadway’s updrafts. It was as if the crow was beckoning us to follow, so much so that I warned Pete, “You watch the road, I’ll watch him” in case our feathered friend decided to head over the edge of the cliffs alongside. We never did find “Edge of the World” that day, but later, I learned the crow is known to Native Americans as
Crazy, eh? Overall, a personal process of this nature can be an intense thing to go through, but the result is clarity. Thinking about the focus we’ll need in the coming months has been a gift. Can you relate?