Stealing Focus-Smarts From My Meditation Practice / by Dana Wood

This tiny guy doubles as an Xmas tree ornament.

This tiny guy doubles as an Xmas tree ornament.

Now that I'm working for myself again - in a rather staggeringly lovely FLA setting - staying focused while I'm jack-hammering away in my home office is tres difficile. 

But work is really percolating for me now (yay! yay! a thousand yays!) and I need to deliver with a big ol' capital D.  

So, while it might sound counter-intuitive, I carved time out of my busy schedge last week to tune into a webinar on productivity.

It was hosted by a group I've joined - Freelance Writers Den - and featured two guest experts I've never heard of, but really want to learn more about.

I'm linking to them here so you, too, can investigate further, if you're so inclined:

Frances Booth, who bills herself as a "Digital Detox Expert" and is the author of The Distraction Trap. I'll be ordering Frances's book as soon as I hit Save & Publish on this blog post. 

Charlie Gilkey, who runs a company called Productive Flourishing and evidently makes brills, no-nonsense planners. I think he offers free mini ones on his site every month. I've kinda missed the boat on the November edition, but if I remember, I'll give December a try. 

Anyway, I took copious notes during the FWD seminar. Frances and Charlie laid out different paths to productivity, but both had great ideas about prioritizing what's really important, and blocking out all the bs that bogs us down. 

A few days later, I was staring down a deadline and kept coming back around to something Frances had said during the webinar: Writing is hard. 

It's no wonder work-at-home writers concoct reasons to wander off and go mop the kitchen floor instead of finishing that article that's due any minute.

Writing is hard. 

As I sat at my desk, interrupting my own flow every 10 minutes to do something - anything - else rather than wrap up my assignment, I decided to steal an idea from my meditation practice.

When your mind starts to drift in meditation, the best way to corral your focus is by acknowledging your thought and moving on. 

In other words, you say to yourself: "I'm having a thought about shopping for shoes on Saturday. Great. Now back to my meditation." 

What you don't do is take the thought any further, a la: "I'm having a thought about shopping for shoes on Saturday. Where should I go? Do I need boots or actual shoes? Oooh, I think I'll check out those Stella McCartney flatform brogues I saw on Gwyneth the other day." 

So, while working on my assignment, whenever I noticed stray thoughts creeping in - even when they actually applied to the piece itself - I mentally put them aside for later.

Here's an example: I was writing about a French beauty brand that has its roots in a storied old salon on the rue du Faubourg-Saint Honore in Paris.

Immediately I thought to myself: "Are Faubourg and Saint Honore hyphenated? Does Honore have an accent? Maybe I should stop right now and look it up."

The "old" me would have stopped, looked up the Saint Honore nonsense, gotten distracted for a good 10 minutes with other items on the World Wide Interweb, and completely lost my train of thought.

But this time, I just let all those "distraction traps" - as Frances calls them - in one ear and out the other. I recognized them for what they were - fear of failure, essentially - and didn't give in. 

I'm happy about that.