Falling down to focus

Source: Unsplash — Glenn Carsten Peters

I do too much, there’s no surprise there. I also take on a lot of seemingly disconnected things, and that’s ok. I love to live in the flow of many ideas and projects. It’s not uncommon from my “to do” list to stretch over multiple pages, and my calendar looks like this:

Egads! How do I have time for anything?

This is not a work-life balance issue, as I don’t draw the nuance between the two (i.e. for me it’s life-life). Thankfully, I also rarely get sick or at least in manner that incapacitates me for an extended period of time…

Well that was until a couple of weeks ago when I fell ill to a bug that I had had me flat on my back for 3 days, and another 2 of recovery. So basically I was out for a short week.

And then, something interesting happened…


When I was back on my feet, my task list, had, expectedly grown and the items left incomplete became unsurmountable, my inbox unwieldy, and I had to move forward with a number of meetings and commitments that needed to be taken care of. I knew that I couldn’t procrastinate, and knew that things appeared unsurmountable. Appeared is the key word here.

I basically started anew:

  • Cleared Mind: First thing I did was get my mind cleared. I got myself out there for a good run to get the cobwebs cleared up. After a week of being sick, it felt great!
  • Cleared Inbox: I created the perception of a cleared inbox. I used flags and smart mailboxes to help me get a list of items to tackle and focus, and created a subset that I could focus on every day. Using smart mailboxes allowed me to set rules, which would dynamically update my inbox based on my activities. Seeing that you just have a handful of messages to tackle can be a good way to feel productivity quickly.
  • Cleared Task List: I created the perception of a cleared to do list, by using filters in ToDoist. These are a great way to only have a handful of items on the list, and allowed me to focus on what was in that list. A side note to that, I purposefully forced myself to keep to 10 items or less per day.
  • Cleared Workspace: I took 30 minutes to clear my desk from all the piles of paper that had stacked up, and took some time to clean my screen and desk too.

A side benefit of this is that many of items in the to do list have gone by the way side very quickly. It’s a way to show the relative importance of items that we put on our to do lists.

So these are just my quick tips for resetting your productivity.

I don’t mean to suggest that getting sick is like falling down. Rather getting sick is a form of incapacitation that makes you feel unable to continue, which can be a feeling of letting yourself and others down.