Small packages sometimes hold the biggest lessons.
I have a candle warmer that had been collecting dust for years. I knew it needed two things: a “tart” (which is a wickless disc of scented candle wax) and a tea-light candle to go below the warming dish to heat the wax.
I finally bought a few Yankee Candle tarts and was looking forward to having my office filled with the scent of “Sun and Sand.” Within an hour, the tart had melted and the room (and hallway) was infused with a tantalizing aroma. Score one for products that do what you expect them to do.
My next experience was not as successful. I burned a new tea-light candle, but the tart wasn’t burning. I felt the bottom of the metal dish and was surprised to find it still cool. But the candle was burning. Why was there no heat?
Finally, it dawned on me. There was a breeze from another room that had the little flame dancing like Lady Gaga on five cups of espresso. The heat from the candle was being diverted and its potency, minimized.
Are you not the same?
You might try to focus on too many things at the same time. Then you wonder why an eBook never gets written, why your marketing attempts never fully meet your expectations, or why your networking connections fall flat.
It’s because you’re trying to dance all over the place.
We live in an era where productivity is worshipped. In an age where it’s possible to engage in several activities at the same time (hello, technology), we find our efforts are often scattered, rendering them almost useless. Like the small tea-light candle’s flame blown about by the breeze, our effectiveness is muted and weak. “Life hacks” are constantly being developed to help us do more in less time.
We need to focus.
Personally, I think there is a general fear of focusing on our work. There are always emails to answer, phone calls to make, and other tasks that all seem to be a priority. If we take our concentration off one area, we feel we’ll lose ground. But is that really true?
In The New York Times, an article mentioned a research study which showed how multi-taskers were less able to filter out irrelevant information, took longer to switch through to multiple tasks, and were less efficient at juggling problems. (“Attached to Technology and Paying the Price”) The constant flow of information has addicted us to interruptions with a diminished ability to distinguish what is important versus what is merely interesting. Since we’re always afraid we’ll miss something, we try to absorb everything at once.
Say no to your electronic devices.
It’s time to get off this crazy merry-go-round. Your brain is wired to do its best work when allowed the time to focus on one task at a time. And not only does this apply to business tasks, but also relationships. If you’re having a meeting with a potential business partner but can’t listen for ten minutes before checking your phone for email messages, there’s a problem. Trying to keep up with technology’s offerings is a fool’s errand. We never will be able to consume even a fraction of the amount of information being channeled through multiple technology devices.
So try shutting a few things down, or at least hide them while you focus on completing one task. Try focusing for 10 minutes on one thing. Then try 15 minutes. Extend your focus times until you’re able to focus completely on a task for a half hour. You may even be able to go a full hour before you know it.
Then you can reap the rewards of a fuller and deeper life. You’ll get that eBook written, you’ll formulate a sound marketing strategy, and you’ll start building relationships that are rich and meaningful. When you treat people more importantly than your email inbox, it will pay off. When you approach your work with the intention to give it your fullest attention, you’ll reach success, even if it is in 15-minute increments.
Otherwise, you’ll be just like that little tea-light, with its flame dancing in the breeze.