I’ve long known that if I want to get better at something, I need to pay attention to it. Whole books have been written about the incredible power of focus. This is why written goals work so well–if they are specific, concrete, and measurable–and if you refer to them regularly.
But recently, with summer travels and school out and our household schedule in flux, my goals have been dropping from view, especially because my daily rhythms aren’t consistent. After experimenting with way too many strategies for keeping my focus on the important things, I’ve landed on a strategy that’s actually working right now.
I’m tracking 8 items right now–enough for me to see real progress, but not so many I’ll get overwhelmed and quit–and I’m giving myself permission to change them at any time. If my list had to be perfect in order to begin, I’d never get started.
The newest addition to my personal to-do list–and the one that’s probably least obvious to you–is “deliberate practice.” Malcolm Gladwell popularized the concept–and the corollary 10,000 hour rule–in his book Outliers. I’ve been exploring the idea of deliberate practice lately, and I’m convinced I need to do more of it.
I’ll check this box if I hit 1 hour of deliberate writing practice every day. This doesn’t sound like much, but “deliberate practice” is different from ordinary writing: deliberate practice is hard work that explicitly addresses your weaknesses.
I expect this to be my hardest box to check, because I need to plan ahead to get my daily hour: this focused work isn’t suited for rest time, with my kids popping in and out of their rooms. It’s for the early morning quiet, or when the sitter is here, or on my day off.
Because the early mornings are so important to me, I added a 10pm bedtime to my checklist. I kept a time diary last week for the first time in a year, and wow, was it telling. I can ruin a day the night before if I don’t get to bed on time.
I’m thinking about what other areas of my life could benefit from measurement. I’m thinking about logging my time for another week, and about maybe getting one of those fitbit thingies. (Has anyone used one? I’d love to hear.) I get better at the things I measure, so: what am I going to measure?
Which areas of your life do you measure in order to maintain your focus? Or, which areas of your life SHOULD you be tracking, and why?