Focusing Stone

I’m all over the place. I’ve got people calling me from all of my various clients asking me to help them with this-or-that, I have two clients waiting on proposals, I’m starting work on an unrelated building project, I have financial statements I’m cleaning up, I’m trying to be home with my wife and four kids, I’m pursuing a job in Sweden, I’ve got three hobbies that I work on and 10 more that I would like to work on, I have a blog to write, plus I’m trying to get enough exercise and sleep.

And because of the way I roll, doing all of that is impossible.

It’s impossible because I try to do everything at once.

It’s impossible because with too many demands and too much stimulation I freeze up–and wind up doing nothing.

It’s impossible because each task demands more attention than I care to give.

It’s impossible because I’d rather go chase the next new thing rather than finish the old boring thing.

But what’s so cool is that I’m getting it done anyway through the help of what I call my Focusing Stone. See, even though I’m borderline ADD, I’ve got a couple of things going for me. First of all, I’ve got good help. My wife’s amazingly good at coping with me, and keeping me on track with everything on the home front. And David, my IT/Programmer/Bookkeeper/Personal Secretary pushes me when I’m slacking and helps me up when I fall at work. Second of all, I’ve got good systems.

My internal Focusing Stone is broken. (Some might even say it’s a mirror, causing to me to arrogantly focus on my own self-interest, but I digress.) So I had to build an external Focusing Stone–a crutch–to help get me through the day. Here’s what it consists of:

  1. Delegate. I mentioned I’ve got good help, and I use them as much as I can. My wife pays the bills at home, and David pays the bills at work, for example.
  2. Don’t waste time. My secret obsession is a news site called Hacker News. I don’t know why I’m so addicted, but whatever. But I’ve found that if I’m not careful, I can spend easily half-hour to an hour reading through all that is interesting but non-essential. To fight this, I installed Leechblock, an addon for Firefox that allows me to screw around for 10 minutes and no more per day. (There’s a similar one called StayFocused for Google Chome)
  3. Schedule. I use Google Calendar aggressively, and it syncs with my Windows phone. I try to commit myself ahead of time–for me, uncommitted days are timesinks in which no productive work gets done.
  4. Team up. If I have a living breathing human being working alongside me, I just don’t get distracted.
  5. Email filtering. I get emails from people that I never see, simply because I’ve been able to sense a pattern and build a filter in my inbox to deal with them. Bookkeeping client? BAM!automatically delegated. Automatic receipt? Into the accounting inbox. Amazon or Newegg ad? Deleted. Group email that I was somehow included on? Tagged and archived. I can’t afford the external distraction. I distract myself enough as it is. I use the Google Apps webmail client, but you can do the same thing with Outlook rules.
  6. Freshdesk. This one is new to me, but it’s a ticketing system that puts all our bookkeeping tasks in order, sorted by date of submission. It’s been helpful simply because it means there’s less need for communication. It’s already obvious what needs to be done, no need to talk about it.

None of this is perfect. Just today, I missed a meeting with a client that I had scheduled because I overslept. I spent at least 15 minutes just chit-chatting with people.

I can’t change my nature, but I’m more than willing to build a system or two to help cultivate it.

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If any of you reading this have time, I’m curious to hear your tricks–email me (michael@silvertreksystems.com) or throw ’em down in the comments.

 

  • poppydesign

    I’m gonna block your blog with StayFocused cause I always find it interesting.

    I set up a reward for myself – after I do x amount of time on a boring routine job, I get to spend time on a new project. And I decide how much time, ahead of time. Sometimes I even stick to it.

  • Rose Kuoppala

    What I am SUPPOSED to do is block your blog (great minds think alike, Maria!) and not follow your link to Hacker News! Why did you put that? So you can look better in comparison with all the slackers who have now become equally addicted?
    Mostly, I give people really good advice on how to be productive/not be a loser/understand themselves and those around them/fill in the blank. Therefore, even though I don’t get anything done, I am successfully helping others to feel bad about themselves because I’m so much better than them at knowing what needs to be done. Wait. This is a sad post. This is too negative toward myself and my goals are not being met! I need to quit writing on your blog and go tell someone what to do!

  • Darryl

    What grit of polishing compound do you use on your stones?

    • michaelleland

      It depends. On the new focusing stones, I use 300 grit, but on the older, tried-and-true systems, I get down to around 40 grit. Small things need polished, but by then the big corners have been ground off.

      • Matthew

        Did you reverse the grit numbers? Smaller numbers means coarser sandpaper.

        • michaelleland

          Clearly I need to polish my woodworking ability :)

  • Keith

    Just curious if your always this free talking about your stones?