A few years ago in my eagerness to “get more done” and “stop wasting time,” I read a book about time management. It got great reviews, and I hoped–as I juggled–it would help me do a better job keeping all the most important balls in the air.
The author suggested that if there were things that you could do in just a few minutes, you should DO them and get them DONE, rather than add them to a long list of tasks.
Sounds logical, right?
If it takes a bit to find the pen and paper for the to-do list, then another moment or two to write the task down on the list…then why not just DO the actual thing and be DONE?
It made sense to me.
Unfortunately, as I implemented this strategy it turned into something more along the lines of “if you give a Gina a five minute job…she’ll find another five minute job to go along with it….”
Waiting for the coffee to make?
Hurry and unload the dishwasher.
And before you know it the coffee is done…and starting to cool…because I’m still unloading the dishwasher, putting everything away, wiping off the kitchen countertops, and wondering if the dryer is finished.
It was even worse at work because, while I could respond to emails in less than five minutes, before I finished three or four or ten more had dropped into the Inbox to take their place.
The five minute task turned into a fifty minute frenzy, and it soon became clear that I was making myself nuts.
I realized I was keeping busy, but I wasn’t getting anything done because I was trying to fit everything into five-minute pigeonholes.
I wasn’t giving my full attention to where I was in the moment because I was worrying about the next thing…the next moment.
Which got me wondering what it means to give something my full attention.
Full attention? Complete focus.
The kind of focus your cat has when she’s plotting her attack on the foot that’s moving under the covers.
I remembered a great piece of advice I got while I was pregnant. A friend of mine said, “When your son comes to show you a dandelion or a drawing, put down your phone or whatever it is you’re doing, then fold your hands together so you’re not distracted by something else, and give him your full attention.”
When he was little, I came back to that advice again and again. And it was so much harder than I thought it would be.
• Because the “hey mom, look at this” came while the laundry basket was full and hot out of the dryer.
• Because the “you gotta come outside and see this” happened right after I finally poured myself that cup of lukewarm coffee and sat down for a minute.
• Because nothing brings me back to the moment after a few distracted um-hmmms quite like hearing “Gee, thanks Mom!” and having absolutely no idea what I’ve just agreed to.
And in this age of hyper connectivity — with texts, chats, and social media — it’s only getting harder.
But while I have given up on the five minute tasks, I have not given up on the goal of focus. Especially where my friends and family are concerned.
Give it a whirl this week. When someone talks to you, fold your hands and give them your full attention.
See what kind of difference it can make.