How to Focus: Back to Basics as a form of Meditation
There’s no chanting, a fair amount of swearing, it’s a pain in the ass — but it delivers perspective, appreciation, and focus.
It’s a brand new year, we’ve created our New Year’s Resolutions and we’ve even looked at how to make sure we deliver on our resolutions, but we still need help in knuckling down and focusing on the tasks and the year ahead. What’s a guy to do?
The first thing I always do is procrastinate. I will write an article at some point about Positive Procrastination (I appreciate the irony of putting that off for now) but I genuinely believe in living by a fully comprehensive to-do list and being able to procrastinate by picking up on another task that needs doing so that time is never wasted, just tasks are not necessarily prioritised in the best way.
I reach for tools that will help me succeed. Anyone who has ever bought more than one self-help book will recognise the pattern:
- I need help with task X; e.g. writing articles
- I will spend time researching what other people have done to write articles
- I will spend my money buying bokos/subscribing to resources that other people sell about writing
- I will realise that all of the people selling these resources didn’t make any money from writing and instead make their money from talking about making money from writing
The ridiculous thing is that I know what I need to succeed and how to focus. I’ve done it before, I’ve learned it before, I’ve achieved it before. Not everyone works on a computer 80% of the time but for me, the winning pattern is:
- Clear the desk/bag/inbox and sort all items into a single to-do list (see this article on How to write an effective to-do list to drive Productivity)
- Make a pot of nice coffee. Or tea. Or whatever drink you like and make sure you have a pot of it so you don’t need to get up for a while.
- Switch on Noisli.
- Put in earphones and switch on Soundcloud — ideally an instrumental or ambient soundtrack with a BPM greater than your resting heart rate; my theory is that this helps speed your heart rate up and you work slightly faster. The faster you need to work the higher BPM music you need. You can’t do a spin class to classical music (this is also because it would be like a scene from a thriller movie).
- Pick up item number one and Do, Defer, Delegate, or Delete.
My new year always starts in a very productive way. The to-do list is done, the tools are out and in force and I then race away with a gazillion things all at once and crash.
It’s time to get back to basics.
Have you ever travelled for work, a wedding, a holiday, or something similar whereby you are plunged into staying in a small hotel room or apartment without the majority of your stuff?
It’s a wonderful immersive minimalist experience. With little bottles of shampoo.
Whenever I return from such a trip I feel refreshed and ready to tackle my life again. I want to keep that feeling and stop it from being an occasional necessity.
When you go camping — and it doesn’t have to be bare-bones Ray Mears style, but I’m thinking no electricity hook-up, no music blaring from Bluetooth speakers, just camping whereby you notice when there is daylight and when there isn’t and where you have to fetch wood, chop wood, and make a fire.
Back to basics camping provides the skills and environment for focus and that’s what I want to regain in my life.
I used to work in an airconditioned office in central London. It was lovely: I had a view of the London Eye and the River Thames. It was also completely lit by fluorescent ceiling squares and exactly 19.5 degrees every single day of the year.
I want to know what season it is and whether it’s hot or cold outside and whether it’s raining or not.
Back to the camping.
In order to go to bed content and without the danger of animals raiding your tent in the middle of the night, you have to have eaten and washed up before it gets dark.
To eat and wash up before dark you have to have cooked and heated water.
To cook and heat the water you have to have built a fire.
To build a fire you have to have collected and chopped wood.
Chopping wood requires absolute focus or you’ll lose an arm/finger/toe.
That’s where the practical meditation comes into play. How to Focus? Back to basics as a form of Meditation. Take a task and think about the basics that need to go into that task.
Be more deliberate. Live more intentionally. Connect with nature again. Focus on splitting the required tasks from the fluff.
That's how I’m going to live my 2020.