In order to learn Focus, a problem for me in every regard, I keep a daily journal. A day runner, not a diary, though I list anything relevant that happened during the day.
My most recent entry: “Dog threw up on my bed at 2:30am, watch him for signs of illness. Don’t kill him.”
As a pathway toward Focus, I make lists. Sunday evenings, I pen a schedule of To Do for Monday, my one proper day off work, often finishing a few before going to bed. (I can’t stand an unfinished list; it needs Doing immediately.) Then I have to make a new list.
Vicious, vicious cycle.
An example of Focus: each November, when I tackle the National Novel Writing exercise, I won’t stop writing without knowing what I’m going to write about the next day. It’s comforting to know. Stewing on topics is stressful, uncertain, and under NaNo pressures of jotting 1,667 words per day, calm is a blessing. My wee brain mulls on the next day’s activity while I contemplate vacuuming the floor until Netflix loads.
Days when I absolutely have no concept of how to proceed, I falter, flailing in my chair like an angry toddler forced to sit. While I panic that I have nothing to write, I organize my pen caddy for the eightieth time because that helps with thinking. (Nibs down, for best ink flow.) Though the ink pens are tidy, I waste half a day and kick myself for doing so.
On the internet yesterday, I shopped for a new yearly log, a fresh slate for 2020 throughout which to jot things, because jotting is fun.
Oh, and make lists.
But while I was searching, I learned I’m not blazing new trails, that lists are not a Me Thing.
Ridiculous, I say!
Seems the internet believes focused lists like mine not only exist, but have a name, and it’s not mine! It’s called the Ivy Lee Method.
Who’s this Ivy Lee gal? I thought, indignant that she took my idea.
Ivy is a guy, for one, and he lived a hundred years ago, pointing out to high powered businessmen that making a list of six items — six, specifically — to focus on the next day centered the mind and got crap done.
I know! I railed at my computer monitor. I’ve been doing it for years!
Unlike Ivy Lee, I did not receive the equivalent of 400,000 dollars for my genius, which is galling. I’ve channeled the bodiless mind of a smart humble man of Yore — “If it’s successful, pay me what you will,” he said, in my paraphrasing brain — whose simple idea has saved my day a thousand times.
You can do it, too.
Here’s the premise:
Before leaving work, write down your top six must do’s for tomorrow. Number them in order of priority.
The next morning, work on only your number 1 item until it’s complete.
Work the rest of the list the same way.
At day’s end, move incomplete tasks to the next day’s list.
Repeat every day until you retire, then do this after that.
One caveat: don’t wind down with a meditation app before getting down to business. I still struggle with a course in my favorite app, Headspace, and its aptly titled Focus course. I get too relaxed after forty-five seconds, then think about something else, and/or fall asleep.
But I’m no quitter. I’ll get through the course somehow. Because it’s on my list.