Productivity and GTD

My New Year's Resolution

AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
Blog focus

I am not a fan of the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions. For two reasons. Firstly, because resolutions do not work. They are actually just wishes or dreams with no target date. They are usually defined in such a generic way (“enjoy life more”, “learn something new”) that do not involve any specific action you should take to achieve them. It is like trying to win the lottery without purchasing any ticket. You know it’s not going to happen.

And secondly, because even if resolutions were well defined—not as desires, but as achievable goals—, they do not have to have anything to do with the calendar year. You should set goals when you need to achieve things, no matter the season it is. Moreover, the time it takes you to reach them can vary. It can take one month or two years, depending on how big or small the goal is, the time you can spend on it and how effective you are.

However, this year I do have a resolution, if you will. I want to improve a skill that is essential for most things I face every day, from performing tasks effectively to maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships: My attention.

Actually, it is something I am considering seriously as I read the book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, by Daniel Goleman (I started two days ago). I think I am pretty much good at staying focused on what I am doing, but the first pages of this book have made me aware of how important it is to develop this skill to the maximum extent possible these days.

According to Goleman, the link between attention and excellence is behind almost all our achievements. Attention is needed not only to understand, learn or remember, but also to read the emotions of others, generate empathy and build good relationships. It is an asset that, despite being little known and despised, has great relevance in how we face life.

And it is something that is withering. Technology is bringing us some good stuff, but is also making us more and more unable to pay attention to anything for a while. We feel such necessity to check our email and the posts of our acquaintances in social networks every few minutes, that we are no longer able to enjoy a book, a movie, a concert or a dinner. We all see people that meet to have a beer and do not talk to each other, although they talk with others who are not present, through mobile. Today teenagers are so used to communicate via devices that they become terribly clumsy identifying emotions through nonverbal gestures.

All that worries me a lot, so (1) I am not going to be that way, and (2) I will encourage everyone not to be that way. How will I treat this resolution? Since attention is developed as you use it, I will ensure I’m using it every day. I will establish the routine to check every day if I am paying full attention to what I am doing. I will define a daily checklist to make sure that:

  • I am not interrupting a real conversation with a person who is present, to answer a message I just received.
  • And if the other person does it, I will make it clear what message he/she is conveying me: “I’m not interested in what’s happening here and now”.
  • I am using the Pomodoro technique regularly in my work, since it is very effective against distractions.
  • I am following these 10 tips to stay focused.

Surely, I will add more points as I progress with the reading of “Focus”. I will tell you…

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