The 1 practice that helps me ‘spark joy’ at work and focus on what matters

Photo by Swaraj Tiwari on Unsplash

I’m very busy: Front is growing quickly, I don’t have all the right execs in place yet, my to do list never seems to have an end. Switching between all these competing priorities can make my life feel cluttered — like a house that is in desperate need of Marie Kondo’s tidying up magic.

I’ve shared before the things I do to stay focused and resist jumping between tasks: I quit notifications; schedule time to work on specific projects, email, read, and think on my calendar; and report weekly on how I spent my time.

Late last year, I started a new practice that is having an incredible impact on my ability to focus on what matters. It helps me avoid stress by allowing me to work through the big meaty problems that tend to pile up when I’m stuck in an endless cycle of distractions.

Every Thursday afternoon, I have a 5 hour block on my calendar during which I leave the office so I can step away — both literally and figuratively — from the day-to-day details.

I start by clearing my mind (go on a run, play the piano). Then, I force myself to spend 1.5 hours with just my notebook without any other agenda than thinking about:

  • What are my top priories right now?
  • Am I making progress on all of them?
  • Is there a risk with the company I’m not seeing?
  • Is there an opportunity with the company I’m not seeing?
  • What are the highest-leverage things I can do for Front?

At the end of 1.5 hours, I have notes and a to-do list. I bring them back to my computer and spend the rest of my block working on them.

My best ideas for Front in the past few months have come during this time.

You have to try it to see the benefit of it. The rules are:

  • No agenda allowed
  • No cellphone or computer allowed
  • It’s OK to think about a million different things related to work, to let your mind wander
  • Have time in your calendar for it (otherwise urgent things will take all your time)
  • Be strict about saying no to the inevitable things that will pop up during your scheduled time (even if you know you could help)

To go back to the Marie Kondo analogy, when determining if an item in your home “sparks joy,” you must give your full attention to one item at a time. This practice is very similar. It helps me cut through the clutter at work and uncover the things that will spark joy for the business.

Try it and let me know what you think!