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Don't be the lion when it comes to focus
Lions are ferocious animals. If you end up inside the cage with the animal, it will likely not end well for you. So how do the lion tamers control and tame the lion?
Try picturing a lion tamer in your mind: you might see them sitting on a stool and holding a whip. If you are thinking that the lion tamer is controlling the animal with the whip, I will you something: a ferocious lion is not going to be stopped by a whip. But the stool makes all the difference.
These large cats are single-minded and straightforward. They can focus on only one thing at a time. As the lion tamer swings and bobs the stool with the stool’s legs pointed at the lion, the lion cannot figure out which leg to focus on. It gets overwhelmed and paralyzed.
Come to think of it, this sounds very much like what happens to us. We often try to focus on too many things simultaneously. The result is the same as that of the lion: we get overwhelmed and stumble.
Here’s what to do (and what not to do).
There is a trove of research that tells us that multitasking causes reduced efficiency and performance. By focusing on many things, you focus on nothing. It is a good way to make more mistakes. In fact, apparently, it lowers your IQ. So, stop multitasking.
Adopt a stop-doing list
As we get older, we get more and more responsibilities (not after retirement, I hope!). And with more responsibilities come more and more items on the TODO list. I used to think that the answer to accomplishing all the things on my TODO list was to become more productive. That may be true to some extent, but the reality is that we only have 24 hours every day.
It is also taxing to try and squeeze more and more work done in the finite amount of time we have. So I stopped reading productivity books and accepted the reality: there will be tasks that I can’t do. And if I have to do something new, I will have to stop doing something else.
I enjoy gardening quite a bit. But when things got a bit crazy last year, I ended up stopping to take care of it. The weeds grew, but that’s ok. There is only so much I can do and focus on. This year I am restarting gardening, but that means I am going to drop some other stuff if I have to continue doing gardening.
You don’t need a physical stop-doing list: I don’t have one. But it seems like a good idea to periodically think about things to eliminate from your lifestyle and write them down.
So why this matters in the context of our lion story because with too many tasks, you are going to have many unfinished tasks. And those are taxing and distract you from the one thing you are focusing on (see also the previous post on Zeigarnik effect). Ultimately, you want to clear off the unimportant to focus on the important stuff.
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Find the one thing you need to focus on
It is helpful to have the one main thing that you want to accomplish at the forefront of your memory. So jot down one focus area for the day/week/month/quarter or any other timeframe you have in mind. This helps to know which balls are ok to drop.
The world behaves like a lion tamer and throws many different things at you. But don’t get fooled and don’t lose your focus.
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