Momma said there were gonna be days like that... She just didn't say there were going to be so 🤬🤬 many!
The stories as the one to follow are way too common…
“Make a list,” Dave muttered as his computer came to life. “First step is to make a list.”
Finish essay, he wrote. His essay was due today. It was worth 40% of his grade and he had barely made a dent in it. Call dentist, he added, then Update CV. He needed to apply for that part-time job, it was perfect for him and he needed the money. Calling the dentist would be quick, so he decided to get that off the list first.
While opening Google Chrome to search for the number, Facebook notifications caught his attention. A message from Michelle! Yes! He smiled – the woman that is not to be ignored. Responding to her will only take a second.
There we go: typing, reconsidering, rewriting, typing again -- trying to get the right balance of interested but cool.
Still smiling, he opened his essay. It wasn’t looking good—just a handful of notes and references on a mostly blank page. He definitely needed coffee.
Dave stepped into the kitchen. Crumbs! All over the fricking counter! Sighing, he wiped them up, mulling over how messy Simon (his housemate) was, mentally rehearsing the conversations he might have with him tonight. Meanwhile… toast does go very well with coffee.
Popping some bread in the toaster, he smiled as he remembered the brunch he had shared with Michelle. What if she dropped in on her way home from work? He’d best clean the kitchen. And the bathroom for that matter. This will mean that the other work will need to be done FAST – but it’s ok, he has learned how to be efficient pulling 18 credits last semester – he can do it, has before. In the bathroom, he saw his toothbrush and remembered: the dentist!
Dave popped back to his computer to look up the number, and while on hold, opened his CV. Efficiency to the rescue. Doing a few things at once is where it is at. And it can go on the resume as well. What is a better word for “multitasker”? Simon would know, he worked in recruitment. He will speak to Simon about it, when he gets home -- before or after the toast crumbs conversation. So – put the resume on hold: Michelle could potentially stop by in about an hour -- he needed to write this essay. First thing is to look at the notes: he had jotted down some ideas, some had been storing in the back of his mind. The prompt “marketing approach” was meant to remind him to discuss…
“Dr. Richmond’s Dentistry. How can I help you?”
Dave opened his calendar to see what day he could reschedule the dentist to. Oh, NO! He had an oil change appointment today. How could he have forgotten that?! Reschedule? But he waited to get in into that shop for over 3 weeks – they are good, cheap, and thus very popular. And the car is already 1800 miles over the scheduled service limit. Better go -- there still was time to make it over there. But why does this have to happen like this every flipping time? As soon as he got the momentum on the essay, the circumstances got in the way to ruin it. Never fails!
Does this sound familiar?
You plan. You do your best. You follow the best practices of time management: make lists, take good notes, prioritize tasks by their size and importance… and it all fails, and your “plans” are made for you as though against your will and control.
Is there a fix for this? Yes.
Towards the end of this article. I am going to offer you a completely free download of my VIBE, entitled Rarely Used But Extremely Effective Tips and Hacks to improve your focus and triple productivity.
In this e-book, I am digging in into some small but powerful changes that Dave could have implemented. He would have been able to finish his essay and CV today – while also getting the oil changed and spending a lovely evening with Michelle afterwards. (If you are not familiar with this new format yet, VIBE stands for Virtual Interactive Book Experience: unlike with cumbersome PDFs, its text adjusts to the size of your screen, so it is always easy to read, and it also includes videos, animations, and other interactive experiences. Just like a book in 21st century should be: you’ll be pleased to experience the difference!)
BUT before you go running off to scroll down for it: WARNING! Please read the next few paragraphs – if you don’t, your results are likely to be compromised. Plus, we are going to talk a bit more about Dave here and discuss the specifics of HIS situation. So, if the story raised questions, please read on.
The thing of it is, “tips and hacks” are exactly what the name suggests (as per Webster's dictionary): quick, TEMPORARY fixes. How would you feel if you came to, for example, a cardiologist, and he offered you “5 tips to fix your heart disease”? Or, “3 quick hacks to deal with high blood pressure”? Ah? Wouldn’t you see QUACK written all over this health advice? So, why is the question of your focus, metal clarity and productive HEALTH any different?
Another parallel: what if a doctor told you something like this:
“Your symptoms match those of high blood sugar. Take 3 units of insulin: this is what the statistical majority of people in the United States take when they have diabetes”.
“Wait a minute,” you would say. “First of all, how do you know for sure that I even have high blood sugar without doing any testing? Shouldn’t we measure my blood sugar first, before making this call?“
Yes, symptoms may match – but would you feel comfortable with a call like this? No. And besides, just because 3 units of insulin happens to be a statistical mean, your blood sugar is very likely to be different, even if you do have diabetes.
But although this is nothing but common sense when it comes to “official health conditions” -- like heart disease and diabetes—this does not cover everything. So termed “sub-clinical” issues such as poor focus, emotional issues, feeling stuck or unable to perform as well we you used to, and so on, have been off the medical radar. The more significant issues are slowly starting to make their way in (with anxiety and depression finally being recognized as health issues – which was not the case 20-30 years ago), but smaller problems still somehow fall by the wayside.
The medical science, I guess, has bigger fish to fry -- which is understandable. But once you think of it, although the lack of ability to retain information efficiently, to accomplish tasks in a productive manner, or to react quickly to the changes around you may not be life-threatening, they certainly impact the quality of your life. In severe cases such issues may undermine one’s career or business growth, or even family life (because of inability to balance work and home life efficiently). The result is guilt, bad mood, and overtiredness. And these, in their turn, often lead to depression. And depression, my dear readers, IS life-threatening: it has caused some take their lives. Do you see how sub-clinical issues can become clinical issues?
PLEASE DO NOT GET ME WRONG HERE: I am not trying to say that just because you feel that your daily life could stand a little better organization today, you will get depressed and kill yourself tomorrow. No more than my craving of an extra cupcake today would mean that I will die from diabetes eventually.
What I AM saying is: look at the connection! Although mainstream approaches write off these sub-clinical issues (be it a craving or mind fog) as mere imperfections that “everyone has”, or as some kind of inferior breed of problems of their own, at an honest glance, these are just the same health/life/function imbalance issues -- only smaller, or in their very rudimentary stages. What happened to “early diagnostics” meaning a lot higher rate of cure? And that “ounce of prevention”?
The outcome? When we ask for help with these challenges, all we get is a one-size-fits-all bucket of “tips and hacks”, in an approach that would be considered quackery for any other, just a bit more serious, problem. So, does it surprise you that the results that people get with those approaches are hit-and-miss, mediocre, and temporary? Not because the tips themselves are bad – but because they are applied chaotically, without any systematic approach, and without the understanding of individual specifics or situations.
Lack of focus or feeling disorganized is not a medical condition -- of course not. From a Holistic standpoint, it is an imbalance. This also means, however, that it is not strictly speaking “you” or “your fault”, or your lack of willpower, or any lack of productivity tools. And this means that "just do it" approaches are not likely to work here -- just as they are not likely to work in other situations in life, without the consideration for the underlying environment, physical well-being, other people's influences and other important circumstances. Proper diagnostics (testing) and other approaches that address each situation individually are as much in order here, in the issues of our productivity and organizational health, as they are when it comes to the conditions of our physical health.
Let’s take a quick look at Dave.
The first thing that most people spot right away is an organizational issue: Dave should have looked at his calendar at the beginning of his day, before even starting to make a list. Taking it one step further, his list should have already been made before he even fired up his computer for the day – as in, the evening before.
Some may also suggest that turning off Facebook notifications may have also been a solution – however, this may not be feasible for many of us. What if missing a message from “a woman that is not to be ignored” could affect the development of that relationship at that tender budding point?
Also, most distractions do not come from personal interactions. For example: you open your email to see the details of communication from a client whose job you are working on… and you see an email from ANOTHER client, with the headline screaming” “Urgent! This project is falling through if you do not respond now” – however they may have phrased this. Or, you open your notes to access important information, and you see a note that you have missed yesterday, thus jeopardizing the welfare of the entire previous project. So, while turning off personal distractions may help, it certainly does not solve the overall “distractions” problem.
Looking at the time management and focus issues from the Holistic standpoint uncovers a few more, a lot deeper issues. Let’s name just a few here – in no particular order: I simply want to give you a picture of other angles you may not have considered when looking at Dave’s situation. We dig deeper into these in the VIBE by using the Holistic approach that I am going to describe shortly.
- One-size-fit-all cure myth
Remember the blood sugar analogy? This is the first thing to consider (both here, and in all questions of productivity and productiveness in general): what approach should DAVE take in order to make things work – as opposed to “what is a statistically good approach”. Is he the type of person who should be making task lists in the first place?
In my UnFUG Your Life program (more on this in a minute) we dig deeper into each person’s needs based on 16 personality types defined by Socionics (which is a further research step from the Myers-Briggs system that initially defined enneagrams). But for the sake of keeping thing here manageably brief, let’s look at just the first level of the personal needs analysis, in a rough parallel with the well-known division of left brain vs. right brain: some people possess a creative type personality, other – analytical. Dave is certainly a creative type (again, there are going to be 8 different “creative types”, based on the 16 personality nomenclature, but here we are not considering the details – so, suffice it to say here, Dave is “a” creative type). While analytical types do really well with a list of tasks and go through them like clockwork, crossing them off the list, one by one, in their exact order, creative types are driven by inner and outer inspiration: intuition, circumstances, emotions, sparks of creativity, ideas of opportunity, mood, etc. – and cannot tolerate the “dictatorship” of a rigid task list. Trying to follow a list of tasks will always leave them with a feeling that they are doing things wrong: working on a wrong thing (of a lower priority), missing an opportunity, being unproductive, ignoring important clues, and so on. No matter how hard Dave tires, he will have as much luck sticking to a list, as he would changing his dominant hand: it will always feel awkward and he will always be underperforming. His first step (ideally) should have been to determine what kind of productivity approach would be right for his mindset and personality, rather than mumbling, “fist make a list”, just because it seems to be everyone else’s mantra.
- Deer in headlights.
This is a very common focus and productivity buster, which is—in some way—subconscious. The train of thought goes like this:
This creates a paralysis effect, where you really are not working on the task but rather thinking of the ways to “do it fast”: Can I delegate? Which corners can I cut?... and the most common: “What excuses can I come up with for not doing it right now?” Your conscious mind is indeed busy with the task, but this other powerful thought process is going on in the subconscious background, and it is consuming a lot of your mental energy. It’s like trying to surf the internet while uploading a large file “in the background”—it slows down everything and makes everything you are doing very unproductive. Not to mention that the subconscious mind often finally gets the upper hand, and you quit: the whole thing was nothing but a false start, and a complete waste of time.
Can you see how it is happening to Dave here as well?
A simple fix that I teach as part of the UnFUG approach could have prevented this: have dedicated time-blocks for daily tasks (as opposed to a schedule or a list). Giving the CV a dedicated timespan of 2 hours would have prevented the Deer in Headlights syndrome AND saved the mental energy that was wasted mulling over a possible conversation with Simon (over the CV as well as his messy habits), and this energy could have been applied PRODUCTIVELY elsewhere.
- Mixing up unlike things.
If Dave used the right approach to planning (weekly blocks rather than daily schedules – more on this in the VIBE), he could have combined calling the dentist with the oil change and placed the call either while on the way there, or while sitting in the waiting room. Trying to combine CV writing with being on-hold is total lunacy (not only a “double whammy” for the Deer in Headlights syndrome, but also clearly a set-up for an unplanned interruption). This is nothing but common sense for an outsider looking in, or in hind sight, but when you’re in a hurry, this is exactly what happens when you let things “fall into place naturally”.
In the VIBE Rarely Used But Extremely Effective Tips and Hacks to Improve Your Focus and Triple Productivity I cover other approaches that could have helped Dave solve the situation. There is no direct reference to the story there – just a practical list. But I will tell you a secret: every one of the tips mentioned there pertains to Dave’s situation, and he could/should have used those approaches to make his day a lot more productive. See if you can spot all of them in the story here.
But if you want to go beyond the roulette of shuffling through the deck of tricks in hope that one may work for you, here is a better way: use the holistic UnFUG approach.
If you decide to join us, we will end up looking into what is going on in Dave’s story in a lot more detail. We have already discussed that determining Dave’s personality should play a key role in selecting his self- organization approach. We will also look into what imbalances can be at play here and stand in the way of concentrating, making the right decisions and memory/retention (both physical and psychological) – and how to detect and fix them, of course.
We will look at an incredible connection between your ability to focus and your environment – as strange as it may sound to some, what you eat, where you live (and with who), the smells in your workspace and the vibes of the person next to you can make it so that your productivity soars… or zap it to the point where you cannot focus no matter what you do… and everything in between.
Your physical health also plays a great part in how productive you are. We all know that – this is why we stay home when we are sick: who can get anything done while fighting off a migraine? But somehow when the health issues are smaller than the flu or migraine, we forget that this connection exists. Hence, the Holistic approach. I teach it in its entirety, but I break up my students into small groups, based on their specific needs and interests. And I would like to welcome you to the gang as well, if you wish to join. For a limited time, you can try this program for a month for $1 – full benefits, no string attached. After that (if you do not cancel), you can still access the program for 75% off.
And we will get to the bottom of the issues by doing the much needed psychological testing and individual assessment of each situation.
Join us here
(Cancel any time with one click for any reason, if you wish to)
Now that I have invited you to my private social network, I feel I need to tell you a few words about myself.
From the standpoint of credentials, I am a Certified Holistic Life Coach. I hold a Master’s Degree in Acmeology (which is the science of success and deals with the how-to’s of the realization of human potential). From the standpoint of personal experience, I am a freelancer, handling around 10 clients a day in different settings. Being an independent contractor, I am also in charge of marketing, accounting, sales calls, client appointments, client messages, returns, taxes and other government inquiries, record keeping, software updates, continuing education credentials, website content, and so on – everything that running your own business entails. And, unlike most entrepreneurs and executives out there, I do not come home to a cooked dinner, a clean house and a mom who has done homework with the kids and has driven them to the soccer practice – because I AM the mom. And I have 5 kids. And when they were that age, logistics were terrible, all over town. With traffic.
Despite of this, my life is very much together: I run a successful business that has been supporting my family of 7 on my income alone for many years. I cook from scratch and eat organic food only. We live in a nice house in the suburbs on 5 acers. My 5 kids (who are grown now) are all married or in a good, functional relationship, with good jobs and in positions of respect.
I should also mention that I came to the West Coat at the age of 19 (after I, basically, ran away from home), with a total of $127 to my name and no family around – and took it from there, indeed starting from zero. Well, $127. I share more of my story in the program as well:
So, I feel am qualified to give advice on life organization and focus. What do you think?
Learn more about the UnFUG group here (It includes live Zoom meetings, personal and direct attention to your questions and issues, psychological tests to access your situation, a lot of good information… but most importantly, actual solutions for the actual problems that you specify – the ones that work!)