How to Focus When You’re Scatter-Brained

As you’ve probably read at some point on this space, the last two-plus months have been pretty hectic for me. All of my spare time has been consumed by buying and moving into a new house while also trying to finish the second draft of my novel.

Now, I’ve had to rethink the way I tackle the myriad of responsibilities that seem to persist every day.

Let’s start with a list. Lists are fun.

Here are the big responsibilities that have been preoccupying my mind and energy recently:

  1. Buying, working on, moving into, organizing, maintaining, and still working on a new house.  After slowly filling our living room with furniture and stocking shelves and closets, our house has finally started to feel like home to us.
  2. Finishing Manuscript: Beta of The Warden of Everfeld: Memento. Finishing the draft was hard enough. Now I am doing read-throughs for my editor, trying to find a cover designer, and budget out all of the publishing costs that are about to slam my bank account. (Some non-writerly types may balk at the notion that this is a “real” responsibility, but it is to me!)
  3. Taking care of  Teddy. Look at his fuckin’ bowtie!!! How could I ignore this bundle of energy and love?
  4. New job. That’s right! While on vacation, I was actually in the middle of the interview process for a new position at my company. I’m moving from client services to product management, a much different field with a lot of new responsibilities. This week is when my transition really starts, and I’ll be full-time at my new desk by the end of the month.
  5. Preparing for my friend’s wedding. This is not an overbearing burden, but I’m one of the groomsmen, and I’m giving a speech at the rehearsal dinner. I want shit to go right for my friends.

And in between all of this , of course, are the usual social “obligations”.

I put obligations in quotes, because I certainly do not need to speed a week in the Outer Banks, or a long weekend with some friends at a lakehouse, or go to three concerts in nine days. (I’m currently in the midst of that streak: Foo Fighters last Thursday, PVRIS last night, and Queens of the Stone Age this Friday. #NoRagrets)

But these experiences are valuable to me, and that’s how I prefer to spend my spare time and money there.

So, how have I been keeping myself organized?

Focusing on the Little Things

From high school, through college and grad school, all the way up until this past summer, I have mostly achieved my goals in large chunks. I’m a serial procrastinator, but I’ve built up a knack for knuckling down and churning through a project or task in one or two energy-draining sessions.

With a new house, that has been impossible. Unless we took a week off of work, there was simply no way PW and I could have gotten everything done in one big shot like that. Plus, I have all of these other things nagging my brain on a daily basis.

So I’ve had to adjust. Here’s what I’ve been working on and improving.

Prioritizing what needs to be done

Painting nearly every room in our house was more important than scheduling my next blog post on time. Preparing for an interview while on vacation was more important than spending an extra couple of hours lying in the sand. Going home to make sure Teddy gets the attention he needs is more important than going to the gym after work.

Some things just matter more. Being decisive in what those are is half the battle.

It’s okay to chip away at things

I may not be able to sit down and write 2,000 words in a night right now (NaNo will be fun), but I can do 200, or 400, or maybe 800 if I turn off the damn TV.

I don’t have time to install a four-foot mirror in our bathroom, but I can spend a few minutes ordering a coffee table online, or moving a bookshelf to a better spot.

Be satisfied with small gains

I think we’re conditioned to expect big results and parade those around for the world to see. I’ve done on this website with single-day word counts and such. But if you can sit at the end of the day and count up all of the little things you achieved, isn’t that just as admirable?

On Sunday I:

  • Bought a suit (for the wedding)
  • Moved a bookshelf
  • Further narrowed my book cover design candidates
  • Revised a section of my Beta
  • Spent ample time with Teddy
  • Cleaned up the kitchen
  • Wrote this post (HA!)
  • Prepared for the week ahead
  • Watched plenty of football

Although I can’t say that I got anything big done, I still felt like that wasn’t a waste of a day. Just listing out those accomplishments eased my mind a bit.

Job Skills = Life Skills?

The above section may read like some LinkedIn career blog BS, but the fact is, it’s hard to adjust the way you handle your personal life. At least it has been for me. But I feel like I’m able to focus better on these myriad responsibilities and still be productive overall.

That counts for something, right?

Steve D

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