Peter Hentges (jbru) wrote,
Peter Hentges

  • Mood:
  • Music:

On focus and distraction

Got started on this thought commenting to a friend's journal.

One thing I, surprisingly, like about my current work is that there is so rarely is more than one thing to accomplish and, even then, they have easy ways of prioritizing (due times). So I often get ultra-focused, slap on the iPod and descend into my own little world. I get very productive and generally feel good about getting something done.

Too often in the rest of my life, I find myself faced with six things to do. Each one distracts from the others and I become paralyzed in a sea of procrastination. It's so easy to think of this or that or the other and end up getting nothing done. Or I drop into a video game and get ultra-focused on the goals therein.

I suppose that's also something that I liked about the method of organizing one's life that I learned when I took a class by the Franklin Covey people at my last job. The thing that really sold me on the method was the "Big Rocks, Small Rocks" demonstration shown to us on video.

A woman comes on stage with the presenter. He presents her with a clear plastic bucket and several large rocks. The rocks are labeled things like "Career," "Having Kids," "Reading," "Vacation" and other things that one might choose to make a priority in their life. She was given the explanation that the bucket represented the amount of time she had to do things and that each rock represented the time needed to include the thing on the label into her life. Her task was to fit all the rocks into the bucket. Simple enough, it looked.

As she started, however, the presented stopped her. There were lots of other things that take up time in our lives, he explained: phone calls, common errands, distractions, unexpected visitors, etc. These were represented by these small rocks, he said, and poured pea-sized rocks into the bucket until it was somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 full.

At first, the woman did well, fitting in things that were important to her. Long before she got all the rocks in that she wanted, however, the bucket was full. She was twisting big rocks into the little rocks, rearranging the rocks in different patterns, pressing, squeezing, making lots of effort to fit in the rocks. She kept trying to fit in "Vacation" and just couldn't make it work.

After she'd struggled for a while, the presenter offered her an option. She could start with an empty bucket.

She chose her big rocks and placed them in. Then started pouring the small rocks over them. She shook the bucket to settle the small rocks into the gaps between the big rocks. Eventually, she got them all, including "Vacation," to fit into the bucket.

And that theory, choosing the things that are important to you and making them the priority in your life while allowing all the other things to take up the "free time" when you're not doing the "big rock" things, has served me pretty well. I think I've lost some focus on it in the last year as finding a job and then maintaining subsistence has been the single "big rock" in my life. There are things that I've let drop by the wayside. Since October, the "spending time with friends" rock has gotten short shrift, for example.

As we approach the new year, I think it's time to re-examine my rocks and find the ones that are most important to me again. Then I'll need to take up the practice of prioritizing (sizing) them on a consistent basis again.

  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened