I started Martial Arts when I was 6. It's funny, one of the very first lessons we learn in training is focus. We learn how to keep our attention on a situation, keeping our eyes glued to a 'spot on the wall'. I smile, because I can vividly see the wall that was in front of me when I was first starting my journey.
If we just stare at the spot, our perimeter narrows. That's the key outcome of focus. Zoning in on what we are concentrating on with uninterupted attention. So many entrepreneur friends of mine do this daily. Blinders on. They start early in the morning and work diligently on their 'thing' for hours straight. Sometimes forgetting to eat a lunch or take a break--no time for breaks, they are too focused.
It may keep us from building our relationships with others, coworkers/staff members even. "Sorry, can't talk right now, or later, or tomorrow because I am focused." Accept, we won't say 'focused' we'll say 'busy'. And when we find ourselves saying I'm 'too busy' we are really saying, I need a break.
Studies have shown the human brain is really only able to focus at length for 2 hours before needing a 20-30 minute break. The trouble is we are taught to resist that break. That breaks are for the weak. So we disguise the break with something that will completely destroy our ability to focus any longer. We'll get to a point and pick up our phone, take a phone call with someone on another topic, or we will check our email, or another type of context shifting that will disengage us--most likely, ruin our ability to 'focus' the rest of the day. This is why we will feel unable to 'catch up' and just too 'busy'. Have you ever noticed, it is usually the simplest tasks that make us feel the most overwhelmed? It's not that we are busy, it is that we are break-deprived and playing wack-a-mole with our natural brain functions.
Or have you ever left work at the end of the day feeling completely overwhlemed, only to go home eat a meal with family sleep well and return the next morning, knocking it out in like, 20 minutes? This used to happen to me all the time. When we are past the point that we can no longer truly focus, we need to separate from the work and take a break.
The average American works 9 hours a day. The trouble with this is they also only average about 6 hours of focused work each week. This is why so many times we feel there is so much to catch up on, because the other 7 hours of our day was put into feeling overwhelemed and busy. Shuffling between tasks and notifications and distractions is a recipe for fatigue and exhaustion.
When I learned about this, the year was 2016, and Cal Newport released a book called Deep Work. If you know me at all, you know I am a huge fan of his works. If you knew me back then, you would have also known how 'busy' I was all the time and how much I struggled to break away from the marketing company I developed. I share this information a lot because I know how much it will help other entrepreneurs grow if they simply give up telling themselves to 'focus' (sometimes sounds like, "I need more coffee") and explore their work habbits and patterns.
We don't want to think we are 'working wrong' but this eye-opener gave me back the 40-70 hours each week that I spent being busy and feeling overwhelmed. How much is that worth to you?