It is a Sunday morning, you are at home with loved ones. Your day is planned with things you have been putting all week that you want to do and also to spend some time with the family at the end of the day.
“Ding dong” – the bell rings.
You open the door and it’s a friend, he is coming from the other side of town and wants to spend some time with you
The reality of “focus” is simple – we can do one thing at a time. Even people that can do multiple things at the same time are simply just quickly switching between them, or paying half of their attention to each of the things. For the best results though we need to dedicate our attention and time to only one single task in every given moment.
Most of us know this, but then comes the future, the past, and all the things at the moment. They all take our attention. The past haunts it with all the things we wanted to do but didn’t; all the stuff we need to finish off; or because things used to be better than they are now (or so we remember).
The future maybe calls us with fears of what will be tomorrow, if we will have everything we have today; with possibilities that maybe the chance we have today is what will bring our dreams to reality tomorrow; that maybe you should be doing something else, because what you are doing now is not good for the long run.
And now we have interferences, walls between us and what we want to or have to focus on, like a friend that we haven’t seen for a long time and is at the door.
Filling the space
So often we feel the need to fill our mental space with tasks and activities just because we want it filled. Even if we don’t, other things fill it in for us. What if we put a limit and say, this is only how much you can deal with and beyond that it is free space. In order to get something new in, you have to let go of something else? But you know that whatever is in the circle of your focus will receive the most attention and is most likely to “yield fruit”.
All this requires for us to be conscious of what focus is and how it works. It also means that we know what we want to focus on and to be ready to experiment with some boundaries. Boundaries mean that we also need to say “no”. Say “no” to things we want to do, say “no” to others that are calling us, say “no” to all the noise and clutter, to everything that wants the attention. It is simple, if we don’t do that, something else will step in and take it. We must be proactive in taking ownership of our attention and choose what we fill our mental space with.
I believe in leaving some buffer of unfilled mental space. The area where you are free and you can leave your focus to play around and to be creative. In fact, free time is one of the main requirements for creativity, because once we have time on our hands, we find ways to fill it very often with activities we see as fun. And once we have fun, we begin to be creative and we can direct that energy to solving some of the problems around us.
Think of your mind as a hiking backpack. You need to arrange everything inside otherwise your backpack will be out of balance. Also, you can put only the most necessary things because that way you will be lighter and can walk more and see more. Leave some extra space for things you might want to pick up on the way as a reminder for your experiences on the path.
Put restrictions on the number of things you focus on and take ownership of your mental space. It is very likely that you will be less stressed and more creative. And you will also find time to relax, recover and have fun which will give you more energy to put into the limited number of things you have to focus on.