In business, it can be hard at times to maintain an unwavering focus. Even the most accomplished pros will admit that at times distractions get the best of them. Let’s face it, you don’t have to look too hard in any office to find things that can pull you away from your work.
There’s this great piece by Tony Schwartz, author of The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, that sums up how to best keep your eye on the ball and remain passionate about the work you do. I’ve included my own thoughts as a writer and business owner to accompany each of their six points:
Do the hardest work first.
This is one that took me a long time to fully appreciate, but it’s vital. It’s better to roll up your sleeves and do the hard work when your energy level is at its peak, plus it helps to give yourself an excuse to reward yourself later.
In my line of work this means write every day. Not all day (even writers need a break), but for a sustained period until the words start to flow. I’ve stuck to this principle for over 20 years and it is without a doubt the #1 thing that has helped me improve my craft so that I can do better work in less time.
Seek expert feedback, in intermittent doses.
I’ve had mentors throughout my entire career and each one has provided me with insights that have reshaped what I do and how I approach problems. Often it has been a much-needed shot in the arm, but at times the feedback has been tough to hear. You need both.
Take regular renewal breaks.
One of the most common mistakes to make is to assume that breaks are to be taken when you’re tired. The trouble with that approach is that it conditions you into thinking that problem solving only happens in the office when you’re not on break. Go for a short walk during the day, or even just put on headphones for a bit and listen to a podcast or a song or two. Some of my best ideas and most comprehensive solutions to problems have come to me while I was doing something other than work.
This is related to the point about practicing intensely, but it deserves its own mention. As Schwartz notes: “Will and discipline are wildly overrated. As the researcher Roy Baumeister has found, none of us have very much of it.” When you make a habit of doing something, it eventually stops being a task and becomes a natural part of your day such that you don’t even have to think about why you’re doing it.
Pursue what you love.
Sounds trite, but really it isn’t. Doing what you love is really about finding something you give a damn about. That’s where your ability to gain mastery over a subject can truly take hold.