“The happiness of most people we know is not ruined by great catastrophes or fatal errors, but by the repetition of slowly destructive little things.”
It is getting harder to focus in the information age. By “focus” we tend to mean “filter”– that is, try to ignore the unimportant stuff so that we can pay attention to what matters. But with the joys, sorrows, and special offers of the entire planet now a smartphone tap away from us, we can no longer rely on filtering alone to keep us engaged with what matters.
I think of these filters like spiders’ webs. If we could see inside many “successful-but-stressed” people’s heads, it might look like a vast network of cobwebs — layer upon layer — trying to only let through “what matters most”. The problem is that each web needs constant tending — and guess who’s the spider? Filtration alone (done in your head) is exhausting.
I was working with a client recently, going through what was on her mind. We got to one item, and on reflex she said, “That’s not important enough to write down.” I smiled, and heard myself reply, “It’s too important not to write down.” She furrowed her brow.
I suggested that this probably wasn’t the first time that thought had occurred to her. No, she admitted that it came up often. So what she was effectively doing, what so many of us are doing, is letting something unimportant come up scores — maybe hundreds — of times per day, using a tiny bit of mental energy each time.
She wrote it down.
We then applied the fundamental GTD thought process to this item, getting it into her trusted system so that she can deal with appropriately. “Is that off your mind for now?” I asked. It was. And we moved on.
So, over to you. If you have been feeling at all stressed, there may be something on your mind that you need to get off your mind and into a system so that you can work with it. Take a piece of paper, put your filters to one side, and just write down whatever it is. If you notice any hesitation to write down something “unimportant”, remember that the less important it is, the less you want it circulating endlessly through your mind.
To achieve more relaxed focus, your brain may not need a complete refurbishment — just a little cobweb clearing here and there.