My 2018 Theme is Focus

2017 was a whirlwind year for me. Beyond having a day job (although part time) and running this here blog (which is growing and taking more of my time – good thing!), I also had two little kiddos running around the house and a million other small things clipping at my time each day.

Some days I felt like I would drop the kids off at day care and fall into a pit of ants — each ant biting off a chunk of my time here and there until I look up, it’s 4pm, and I crossed almost nothing of significance off my to-do list. In other words, I’m not exactly a pinnacle example of good work-from-home practices.

So, rather than set goals for the new year, I thought I’d try something different this year.

Instead, I’m opting to make one large theme for all of 2018. That theme is FOCUS.

Focus is Lost in My Life

This is hard to admit but I’ve found that I have a hard time focusing on a single task. With 20 tabs open in my browser, dings coming into my phone, emails constantly flowing, and a million small tasks floating in my mind, it has become incredibly hard for me to just focus.

I’m sure I’m not the only one that feels this way in our new modern working world. We now live in a HEY-LOOK-OVER-THERE culture and I don’t love it.

So, this year, I’m working to constantly focus on the thing in front of me, be it a photography project, a work deadline, or a smiling child.

I will slow down, work better, and hopefully get more done.

A Few Focus Keys

This is going to be an ongoing project for me this year and I’m already finding myself being more intentional with things just because I’ve set this theme for the year. But, here are a few concrete things I’m trying to do this year.

Block Process Email – Email is a constant drag on my productivity. I’ve really grown to dislike it, but I know it’s a necessary in our world. Instead of trying to respond to each email instantly, I’m moving to a system of block processing email. A few times a day I will read and clear out my email all at once and pretty much ignore it the rest of the day. There are plenty of other ways people can contact me if there’s something urgent.

One Non-Fiction Book a Month – In an effort to improve my ability to focus, I’m setting a goal to read one non-fiction book a month. I mostly like fiction books so this will be a bit of a stretch for me and I think force me to focus on a larger topic. This is gonna be a tough one for me. If anybody has any great non-fiction books to recommend, leave a comment!

Phone Free Kiddos – This will also be a tough one, but Betsy and I are desperately trying to move away from our phones when the kids are around. I feel like I can enjoy time with them more when the thing in my pocket isn’t constantly buzzing and yipping at me.

Big Project Time – I got this idea from Tim Ferriss, but basically I’m going to set aside 1-2 hours (hopefully 2) each week that I will close everything and brainstorm a big project. I’m not sure what this big project will even be just yet. That’s the fun part!

Scene Changes – This might not apply to everyone, especially if you work in an office, but I get into a serious funk if I just around my house all week. Even if I’m super busy, by the end of the week I feel like a ghost. At least once a week, I’m forcing myself to get out of my house and work somewhere new. This might end up syncing up with my Big Project Time idea.

What do you do to help Focus?

I think in our constantly shifting world, everyone struggles with focusing, even if they don’t admit it. If you have any tips or tricks you use to help focus, leave a comment!

Here’s to a great, FOCUSED, 2018 everybody!

21 comments on “My 2018 Theme is Focus

  1. I can relate to your concerns. ATM I have a goal for the year and then break it down for each month. Then for that month I write tasks for each day. I keep this in a Google sheet and refer to it each day and during the day. This helps me stay focused and it also gives me a sense of reward when I see what I’ve achieved.

  2. You could try Bulleting Journaling – I’ve been using mine since August and find it pretty helpful. I am a yoga teacher and SAHM so my days are often frittered away “doing things” like wiping spills, laundry, driving to playgroups, remembering appointments, etc., but I love it because it’s completely customizable. I use mine for a calendar (alongside my phone, obvs), habit tracker, daily log (that’s one of the core tenets of using it: as a brain dump of sorts), etc. You set up each month as you go with a “look ahead” calendar list, can start new pages of thoughts, questions, ideas as you need them instead of using dedicated sections (which are never the right size for what you need). There’s great info on the site with videos and blog posts: http://www.bulletjournal.com.

    Happy focusing!
    Jess

  3. The Wave by Susan Casey! I read it, fell in love with it, and have been trying to find a non-fiction reader to recommend it to! It centers on freak ocean waves and why/how they happen (hint: we don’t really know). She covers the subject from a variety of perspectives, including the eyes of big-wave surfers. Excellent and fairly quick read.

  4. Your children are SO CUTE! What a great photo, awesome capture of a moment, and their personalities shine! Candid photos of children are hard to capture, but you nailed it with this one. Thanks for sharing it.

  5. Have you read The Boys in the Boat? About the 1936 US Olympic Rowing Team? Highly recommend it if you haven’t…

  6. Jame Clear has wonderful information on productivity on his website and weekly newsletter. It’s all really good stuff. (Give “Never check email before noon” a read.)

    Batch processing email is really important. It can also be helpful to consider which emails are priority (the kids’ doctor; your wife) and which aren’t (weekly newsletters, catalogs) and set up filters and submailboxes to hold the mail. Then you can look in the priority mailbox frequently, and the not-priority mailbox weekly or when you get time. (You’ll figure out what the priority categories are.) The idea is that you don’t want be scrolling through a huge list of email to figure out what to look at (guarantees you’ll be handling stuff twice): set up the technology to triage according to importance.

    Do the no-charge “Bored and Brilliant” challenge at WNYC https://www.wnyc.org/series/bored-and-brilliant

    Read “Deep Work” by Cal Newport. It works.

    Cut distractions. Get all notifications off your phone. (Everything that pings for your attention is something you react to, and then you’re not in control of your attention.) This guy did it: maybe you can as well. https://medium.com/time-dorks/the-distraction-free-iphone-or-why-im-happier-since-i-disabled-safari-80f8d525b0d8
    You can also set up your laptop/desktop to limit access to the internet, so you don’t have notifications dropping in and distracting you. The apps that do that are worth looking at.

  7. I find myself reading more and more non-fiction these days. Some standouts would be Into Thin Air and Into the Wild (or anything by Jon Krakauer), A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, When Breath Becomes Air, Fatal Vision, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets (non-fiction origin of The Wire), and my all time favorite, A Short History of Nearly Everything (and also anything else by Bill Bryson)

  8. One, love this. Two, for non fiction books, I would recommend the happiness project, a year of living biblically, democracy incorporated, crazy, and apollo 8 as a start. I love nonfiction. Also, biographies are great, I loved Kristen chenowith (sp) and Tina fey, but it’s been a while since I’ve gotten into many biographies because of other books.
    Also, audible is excellent in my opinion.

  9. Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard Feynman.

    I read this book in high school and again in college and just recently thought of it again. Such a good read!! Funny and thoughtful and just awesome. :)

  10. why not consider trying non-fiction in Young Adult books?, your kids will be this age much too fast…..I love The War That Saved My Life and The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley…….

  11. I uninstalled apps on my phone that were distracting me. I immediately felt less stressed and don’t even need to have my phone around anymore.
    My days seem more productive and focused if I write a small, manageable list of tasks to do that day. If I’m feeling overwhelmed during the day, I’ll do a 10 to 20 min. blitz where I’m productive and then I can relax a little more.

  12. I couldn’t agree more with you. I’m also realizing that my ability to focus in the past few years has dipped tremendously, and I also blame it largely on my smartphone. Too many notifications and messages, and the expectation everyone has that you will answer them immediately because “you must have your phone on you.” I’ve started letting people know that I won’t be as immediately available as before, especially during work hours. That I might not even take my phone out of my desk drawer until lunch time… it’s helped a ton!

    1. Haha. Yea. People think you are dead if you don’t reply in 5 minutes. Such a big change from even a few years ago…

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