Young, Shiftless & Black & Radical Focus
“I have learned that your full-on attention for any activity you choose to experience comes with a level of intensity and truth…It’s about living a present life, moment to moment — not worrying about what’s going to happen at 3 o’clock and what’s going to happen at 7 o’clock….In other words: focus..”- Oprah Winfrey
Some time ago, I came across an article that talked about how Oprah Winfrey is able to juggle running a network, production company, a magazine, hosting a radio show, and all of the other 10,000 things she seems to be doing at one time. Surprisingly, there was no secret andecotes or magic “hacks” to Oprah’s success. She did a bunch of things really well because she did one thing real well…at a time.
But What about multi-tasking? Isn’t that the way of the professional success stories? It seems every day we are bombarded with images and instances of people getting more done by doing more. But are they really getting more done? How productive can a person really be if they’re trying to cook dinner, write a paper, and check emails in between paragraphs? Some people can do it. Some people are really good at it.
I am not one of those people. I would’ve surely scorched the rice and start ed— but never sent— 2 or 3 emails while managing to at least type my name at the top of the paper.
Ambition. Overwhelmed. Fear. Proscrastination.
I pretty much accepted sometime in my mid-20’s that I don’t think or operate like everybody else. I see things on a grand scale; I am a visionary and make no apologies for it. But…being so ambitious in my quest for success (whatever that is), I always run into a wall: how am I going to publish one blog post every day? Can I really write 15,000 words a day?
Then, I get overwhelmed. You know the feeling. It’s when you finally wrap your mind around doing something, only to realize that the task is much bigger, and much more complex than you care to deal with. All of a sudden, the deadlines seems closer, resources seem out of research, and a completion date has been pushed out of your mind. Fear, the most basic and primitive emotion experienced by man, keeps us from doing the things we are supposed to be doing. Once that fear sets in, we put off the task until we can’t avoid it anymore or we simply just won’t do it.
This was me. Up until a few months ago. I would have ambitious plans, then get overwhelmed by them. The fear of failure would inevitably push me to delay their pursuit. Then, I put it off (procrastination) and abandon the task all together. This self-destructive pattern went on most of my 20’s. I don’t know how I was able to accomplish the things I have at this point based on the amount of proscastination and time I have wasted over the years.
A few months ago, however. I tried this idea of “radical focus.” Could I sit down at my computer, and for 60 minutes, engulf myself in one current task? I tried for weeks at a time but multi-tasking was so ingrained in my daily make-up that I would catch myself doing more than one thing at a time long after I’d been doing more than one thing at a time.
I got serious about it. Meditation is key. Every morning, just as the sun comes up, I lay in bed and just…be. I don’t pray. I don’t pay attention to my breathing. I am just in the moment. Those few minutes in the morning began to provide a clarity that was off limits to me most of my adult life.
I actually sat down and put the idea of “radical focus” to work. I set my timer on my phone and gave myself one hour of uninterrupted writing time. I turned my phone ringer off. I turned off all music. I locked myself in my room and for 60 minutes, I focused on one task. The first day I did it, I wrote 800 in 20 minutes.
I kid you not. Well…it was 764 words and there were errors and grammar things. I was so stunned at the results tho, that I didn’t even make to an hour! The point is, when I sat down and focused only on the task at hand, the subject at hand, my productivity went through the roof.
Last Friday, I wrote two 4-page papers back to back on two different subjects in 7 hours. My ambitious writing goal is still 15,000 a day. I am getting nowhere near that; however, because I am all the way in when I do write, I am averaging somewhere between 1,800 and 3,000 words every day. Today, (not including this article), I have written 2,000 words. The only thing that has changed is my mindset. I have gotten away from doing a bunch of things kinda okay, to doing one thing at a time really damn well. Just imagine all of the things we could accomplish if we put all of our focus in one area at a time.
What could you accomplish if you practiced radical focus?