Updated: Jun 1, 2020
It’s a Saturday morning…
shortly past 4:45 AM – the sun is starting to show its glow across the sky. I sit for my 15 minutes of meditation and as I come back to my physical surroundings, I hear a *ding* in the distance. It’s the sound of a text reminder. I pick up my phone to see a text from one of my new coaching clients (we’ll call her Stacey).
It reads… “Help! I’m stuck. Can’t find my focus. Talk this weekend?”
I pour a cup of coffee, bathing my brain in dopamine in anticipation of my 1st sip of coffee. I hit reply “Today, 10am or 1pm.” Less than 5 minutes, I get a response – “10am”
Stacey and I started working together because she needed help launching her business. Her initial goal was to help her gain awareness on what she can do to hold herself accountable to completing tasks that would lead to her getting the business off the ground. It didn’t take long before we uncovered a deeper layer that was impacting her accountability. We found a lack of focus hiding beneath the surface. We knew this was holding her back – to make things worse; it created a self-limiting and self-defeating mental state to spiraled her into inefficient habits.
Stacey (without awareness) created physical and mental roadblocks, pushing her to feel “stuck.” She didn’t have a problem planning and sorting tasks. In fact, Stacey planned every single detail of every single moment – then became a slave to her minutes. The moment something slipped, it magnified her anxiety about, in turn, making her feel incompetent, in turn, forcing her to think that her future is chaotic and uncertain. She created a perfect combination to fuel her fear of being a failure before getting the business off the ground.
The moment we hop on the call, Stacey starts spilling her guts on how far behind she is on everything and how she will never get anything done. For someone who is “stuck,” she has no problem with words and rapidly spitting them out. I listen for 10 minutes straight before I stop her. I have her focus on breathing, just to get her in the present moment. I need her mind to be neutral and centered - not spinning around in every direction. Once she got to neutral, she was calm. At this point, I have her tell me the story once more – this time from a 3rd person perspective. As she does this, we uncover that her challenge starts with her environment. She unknowingly designed the physical environment to remind her of ALL pending items on her never-ending list. This triggers her mind to focus on everything else EXCEPT the task on hand. Without fail, the anxiety and feeling of being “stuck” pours over her – stopping her progress.
This presented an opportunity to experiment with an idea. I had Stacey do two things. First, I had pick only 1 item from her list. This would be the item all her focus and energy would point to for the day. Of course, this gave her even more anxiety because everything on the list was a priority.
Stacey: “You’re kidding. Right?”
I reminded her it was an experiment and if we want massive results, we need meaningful action. She grunted but was up for the challenge because she was ready for change. We picked 1 thing to focus on. Then, I asked her to physically manipulate her environment (her tiny living room) to remove anything that distracted her from focusing on this single task. This meant removing pin boards, calendars, journals, the TV remote, turn off notifications on her watch, and put her cell phone on DND (do not disturb) in another room.
Stacey: “How am I supposed to keep track of my work?”
Me: “There is no keeping track. You only have 1 thing to focus on”
Just like that, we got a mindset shift.
The following day, I hear a *ding* in the distance. Sure enough, a text alert. This time her message read...
Stacey: “OMG!!! – ur amazing! It worked”
Me: “LOL, you did the work. I challenged you to try something different.”
When we jumped on a call to debrief on her experience and findings, it turns out that her environment was creating distractions and visual cues that triggered emotions. These emotions triggered a desire to take action. The problem was that Stacey was allowing her environment to control her mental state, which controlled her focus (or lack of). The moment she told her brain -” this is the task, do this” - the brain had no other options and did what she asked it to do.
Calendars and planners are great, but they should not make you feel unaccomplished or inefficient. Keeping and basing your day off them is smart, just don’t get caught-up in having to check off every single item on that list. It’s okay to do partial work. Action is progress. Progress is a step closer to the outcome you are aiming to accomplish.
When you feel distracted or stuck, try these three actions.
Pick one value-based task to focus on for the day. Eventually, you can add more. At first, just start with one.
Examine your physical environment. Be a detective and investigate what can create distractions. Then, simply remove it from your environment.
Reframe the way you think to remind yourself to embrace the process, trust that your progress will get you to the destination.
I hope you enjoyed reading. Send me a private message on other topics you'd like for me to cover.