You have problematic loans with outstanding conditions. The cranky client who just won’t play nice. Your email inbox is overflowing- “how in the world am I supposed to fish through 5,762 messages?” you ask. Each of these is a distraction- a distraction from the most important thing which is the task at hand. Left unaddressed we can find ourselves feeling listless, angry,, or reactive.
Our minds have become conditioned to having several choices, actually countless choices. Thank you technology for that one! Choices- too many of them; and therein lies the problem. It is this mess of tasks, concerns, and frustrations that can leave you mentally dazed and unable to effectively address what must be done.
One way to overcome distraction is to practice ‘disciplined initiative’, or hyper-focus. If you’re in a conversation make the other person the most important priority in your life at that given moment. If you face an unpleasant task, prepare yourself, and make it the first thing you tackle in the day- lest worry and anxiety drain your effectiveness.
The Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius addresses this challenge in his memoirs, “Concentrate every minute like a Roman-like a man- on doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice. And on freeing yourself from all other distractions. Yes, you can if you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable. You see how few things you have to do to live a satisfying and reverent life? If you can manage this, that’s all even the gods can ask of you.”
Well, that’s a mouthful and quite honestly if I were to consider the emperor’s exhortation I fall short each day. But that’s not the point. The goal is incremental improvement.
Here are a few ways we can begin concentrating like a Roman:
- Put your phone away when you’re having a conversation in person- when on the same phone place the screen face down.
- Look first at the hand you’re about to shake, and then briefly look the person in the eye.
- Break intensive tasks that require a high level of concentration into shorter time periods.
- Turn off your computer screen to focus on an intensive phone call.
- Trash the idea of multi-tasking. It’s a myth.
- Take time to meditate and reflect each day.
- Be mindful of your thoughts and don’t believe all of them.
- Turn off your phone when possible. You have voicemail- it really works.
- Make a task list each day. Break bigger jobs into smaller parts.
- Don’t answer every call unless you must (see #8).
- Get your paperwork under control with 43 folders.
In essence, do what’s before you as if it was the last task in your life. The easy way is not the path to achievement, peace, and satisfaction. Perhaps concentrating like a Roman soldier would be a good place to start.