Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has done pioneering work around happiness, creativity and productivity. His idea on Flow is very famous and it is all about high-tend focus levels. Focus is the bed rock of productivity. Focus is the prerequisites to clarity – ability to see patterns and weighing different choices. It is vital to take any decision. Without it one would get consumed by all the noise and ‘Analysis Paralysis’. Similarly Focus is the key to staying in the moment ( not being consumed by thinking about the past or the future) Increasing the levels of Focus to current moment is what Mindfulness is all about. All Mindfulness meditation teach the same concept. Focus is the filter to identify top priorities and thus Getting Things Done. This is an extremely important skill to master. Implementation is not easy. It requires constant focus on our top priorities and regular iterations.
Focus is the most important ‘Saw’ one can have in their corporate ‘Toolkit’. This is the Saw, I believe, Stephen Covey also advised to sharpen in his legendary book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’. It is even more relevant in our notification generating, feed consuming, constantly pinging work culture.
Albeit the bigger question is – What is sharpening the saw ? How to increase focus ? Below are my two cents
As Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz have written in their famous book ‘The Power of Full Engagement – Managing energy and not time is the key to High Performance’, Our Focus is directly linked to our energy levels. And contrary to popular belief there are four types of energy levels -1) Physical energy 2) Emotional energy 3) Mental energy 4) Spiritual energy.
Let’s look at exploring what all the four types of energy are all about
1) Physical energy – It is the fundamental source of fuel. It is derived from the interaction between oxygen and glucose. The most important regulators of physical energy are breathing and eating. Regular exercise, proper sleep, healthy eating habits, keeping the body hydrate are some of the ways to renew and increase physical energy. Lack of physical energy will make us feel lethargic and lazy. Swimming, long walks, trekking are my favorite ways to fill my physical energy jar.
2) Emotional energy – In order to focus for longer duration we need to tap into our positive emotions arising from enjoyment, challenge, adventure, opportunity. Emotions that arise out of fear, frustration, anger, sadness are important for survival but they have toxic impact on our focus if we brood over them for long. Key ‘ muscles’ or traits that fuel positive emotions are self- confidence, self-control, social skills and empathy. We could exercise these muscles by improving our patience, openness, trust and enjoyment. The ability to summon positive emotions during periods of intense stress lies at the core of effective leadership. Lack of emotional energy will make us feel anxious, irritable and impatient. Some of the ways I renew my emotional energy is by having an intimate and honest conversation, listening to music, playing with a kid etc.
3) Mental energy – It is the energy that we use to organize our life and solve problems. The key supporting ‘Muscles’ for mental energy includes Visualization, positive self talk, effective time management, creativity. Mental energy at its best form helps us see the world as it is, sparks optimism in us and help us move in positive direction of our goals. Lack of mental energy will make us ruminate, feel bored, distracted and reduce our attention span. This is the energy that has had maximum damage in our distracted world. Playing chess, reading, writing blogs, reading emails/sms only during certain times instead of getting notifications are some of the ways I have been keeping track of my mental energy and keeping myself challenged.
4) Spiritual energy – This energy is all about knowing the ‘Why’ we are doing something. Spiritual here is not in religious terms but in more elemental terms : alignment of our deep values and daily actions. The key supporting ‘Muscles’for spiritual energy are passion, commitment, integrity, honesty. One should have the courage and conviction to live by their deepest beliefs. The mismatch in this area can be seen when we hear people say “I left corporate because of the politics”, “I feel disoriented with my job as there is no impact” , “I didn’t want to continue in civil service because of the constant lies around me”, “Teaching is too boring for me as I like organizational politics” There is no judgement or right/wrong here. It is all about our beliefs and actions. Lack of spiritual energy leaves us feel guilty, sad and cynical. If a person’s spiritual energy is full they have courage and conviction to live life by their own terms. Introspection, being open to new experiences, meditation are some of the ways I keep a track of my spiritual energy.
All our energy levels are constantly changing. We could increase our Focus by regularly ‘exercising’ the ‘muscles’ for each type of energy. The key to sharp Focus is being on the top end of our energy spectrum for maximum time. Increasing our capacity in all four areas of our energy is sharpening the saw !
What do you think ? Do share your views