6 Jedi Mind Tricks For Focus And Productivity
I have an auspicious birthday coming up this year. No, it’s not one of the “big ones.” It’s far more important than anything ending with a “0.” December 18 is the day “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” premiers. My 21-year-old son, Jacob, has already reserved seats for us as my birthday gift. He’s never been more excited about my birthday.
Jacob’s call about seeing Star Wars came in the middle of a meeting during a stress-filled day. It was a pleasant break to talk to him, as always, but the Millennium Falcon soon kicked back into hyperdrive and the Death Star of stress was quickly in view once again.
There are times when stress can enhance focus, but more often than not I find that it leads to distraction. It’s all to easy to slip back into reactive mode, staring at my phone every five minutes to see if that project has been approved, checking how many how many people have read my blogs, logging into LinkedIn to see who’s visiting my profile. In other words, wasting time.
At times like this I need to harness The Force to stay in the moment and allow my innate ability to focus to take over. Inspired by the first installation in the long-awaited, final Star Wars Trilogy, here are some suggestions for fighting stress and maximizing productivity.
- Understand and live by your personal values.
Success is incidental to having a higher, motivating purpose. My former client and now friend Vanessa Toy left her marketing job at Gallo a little over two years ago to follow her passion, natural and organic food products.
Vanessa was prepared to live at least a year on savings, vowing to be “very purposeful and thoughtful” with the choices she made.
“We have the power to control how we spend our time, so I spend it the way I want and with the people I want.”
Her company, Cultivate Creations, quickly attracted clients and eliminated the need to crack open the nest egg. While her business is thriving, she would be the first to point out that it’s not about the money. Living a values driven life with a sense of purpose has made her happier than she’s ever been.
- Heed your long-term aspirations on a daily basis.
Discipline can be an elusive goal when we’re overwhelmed and with dozens of constantly changing tasks to complete every day. That’s why you should always guided by your values as described in the previous step.
The goal is not only to control the tasks rather than having them control you, but to stay focused on the long term each and every day.
I find short-term tasks such as “write the proposal” or “finish the report” relatively easy. These are discrete tasks with beginnings, middles and ends, all driven by deadlines. There is seldom a problem getting this work done.
It’s the aspirational stuff, the long-term goals that are so difficult. The big tasks, those so big you don’t even know where to start, can intimidate you to the point of total inaction.
This is where your values must be your guide, keeping you focused on the work that will ultimately define your happiness and sense of accomplishment. Make sure to put these items on your daily to-do list and don’t ignore them.
- Turn off and Tune In.
I left the house without my phone one day and hardly knew what to do with myself. Yet after a while, I felt calmer, more focused, totally in the moment. Now I forget it on purpose sometimes, or just turn it off.
We all know that multi-tasking is counter productive, but thanks to our devices, we’re addicted to it. Take the power back! Turn off your phone and your email when you can. You’ll feel calmer. You’ll get more done. Your relationships will likely improve. And the world will still be there when you log back on.
- Move On.
Don’t wait for anyone or anything. Keep pushing. It’s easy to be paralyzed by anxiety waiting for something to happen. Now I write proposals and forget about them. Better to stay in proactive mode, not waiting to be chosen but moving ahead, taking control and always actively seeking out the best opportunities of your choosing.
- Yoga, Meditation, & Exercise
Yoga and meditation have become so cliché. So much so that an anti-meditation screed appeared in the New York Times op-ed section recently.
However, this is one bandwagon you want to jump on no matter how late to the party you are. If you want to be happy and productive, you need to be in good shape, mentally and physically.
Lori Tauber Marcus, an accomplished CMO, keynote speaker and mentor to young women in business, is passionate about being fit to succeed:
“To operate at peak performance in the working world, it’s not just about facts and figures and hard work. You also have to train, in much the same way an athlete trains for a sporting event, to operate in the fast paced, intense world of business. For most of us, we’ll be working for decades, and that means we have to stay in mental, physical and emotional shape for a long journey.”
Vanessa has “sleep well, eat well and exercise” as items one through three on her list of daily priorities, ahead of “work.” Her theory is simple.
“If I don’t sleep, eat, or exercise, how am I supposed to feel good and operate in life? Let alone, be there and help other people or my clients?”
- Don’t be an idiot.
Drinking too much? Overweight? Not getting enough sleep? Wasting too much time? Engaged in other unhealthy practices? Those are not the droids you are looking for! See steps one through five above and go about your business. You know what do do.