Sunday, December 12, 2010

Focus: more than just a Dutch rock band

Workspace of a highly effective person?
Like many, many other college students, I spent my undergrad years perfecting the art of procrastination. Twenty-page paper due tomorrow? No worries, I've got all my notes prepared--writing will commence at midnight. Why start anything yesterday that can wait for today? I always managed to meet the deadlines, and I graduated summa cum laude, proof to myself that waiting until the last possible second really was an effective strategy. Until.

In the real world, there are no professors hanging over you, giving you until Friday at 3 to get your work done. If nobody at all is awaiting your output, that finely honed procrastinating talent can become one of your biggest obstacles. Why work on something right now that I can put off until tonight, tomorrow, next weekend?

It takes a lot of drive and determination to write, especially when important things like family, friends and career compete for your attention. Some days I'm excited about what I'm working on and it's easy to get in the writing zone, but on others the distractions loom, and suddenly I've wasted an hour reading Wikipedia or cleaning my home office. Some days I'm "too tired," "too overwhelmed," and some days I just admit to myself that I'm feeling lazy.

I know that writing regularly is like building up a muscle, and you have to practice. Sometimes I set a timer for myself if I'm having trouble focusing. Sometimes it's listening to a particular song. And while I'm not trying to promote sports gear or athleticism here, I do like Nike's "No Excuses" ad:

Sometimes I'll watch it for a kick in the pants, to gun up my competitive side a little. What do you do to get and stay focused?

**Also, I won't post the video here, but if you've never heard of Focus the band, you really want to check out this mind-blowing video. I knew the song but was introduced to this amazingness when Maggie Stiefvater posted it on her blog.

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