Something about myself about which I have become aware is an overly active ‘what’s next’ approach to living, and it’s driving me batty. In the excellent drama ‘West Wing, President Josiah Bartlett had a saying, which he repeatedly said during crisis meetings. They’d all be chatting away about a problem, then they’d solve it and Bartlett would say, “What’s next?” It was a declaration that said Decision Made and also Move Along.
That’s in my head all of the time. The impulse for this article was me realising, as I sat on the porcelain throne, that my head was buzzing with all the things I had to do today, the order in which to do them, what have I forgotten, where’s the gizmo I need, and so on. Not conducive to the job that was at hand which, although concentration was required, did not warrant haste. Haste may make waste, but in this case the waste had already been made. But enough of that vision…..
I find that whatever I am doing, I am thinking about the next thing. This means that my focus is not on enjoying the moment, but on the stress of not yet doing that ‘next thing’. Even as I write, my left hand hovers over a camcorder I need to charge for tomorrow’s appointment, which leads me to remember the other things I need to prepare, and when am I going to clean the car and
Some might suggest the Mindfulness is the answer. I disagree. I disagree because (to my mind) mindfulness is abandonment from the moment, even though it’s supposed to be connection to the moment. To me, mindfulness implies separation from the ‘activity of the moment in preference for the ‘wholeness’ of that moment, and I don’t want to disassociate from what I am doing to seek a nirvana-like state of bliss. I’m too busy.
I DO want to focus only on what I am doing and allow the space in my head to be used just for that productive effort, at that particular moment.
Maybe there is a crossover between focus and mindfulness, but I’m too busy to find it.
Having a plan for the day in advance of that day, helps. Making a prioritised list means looking at the appointments and commitments you have for the day, and then reviewing the order so that you can be doing the appropriate thing at the appropriate time, or so that you can amend your priorities as interruptions and conflicts arise – as they inevitably do in this line of work.
I deal with that in detail in the book Police Time Management, but in a nutshell it means allocating an ‘Order of Events’ to the planned tasks – in and around and in anticipation of set appointments – so that you can fit in the important things that need to be done. Then, having set that order, focus on those things in that order in the knowledge that each will get the appropriate attention as and when you have planned to do it.
Your current practice of an A4 To-Do List contains all the things you want to do, and as a result you have no plan – just a head full of stuff written onto a bit of paper. That’s not a plan, that’s a mess.
My advice – learn how to prioritise and plan each day. Plan each day at the start of the week, and then adapt at the start of each day. That means that on Sunday (for example) you plan things you want to do every day that week, and then at the start of each day, you plan the order of events, and then execute accordingly.
It’s amazing how focused you can get if you have something to focus on. Other than birds singing and trees a-rustlin’.