Focused and Flexible

sign-36417_150Focused and flexible. These two words are becoming very important in every area of my life.

I am eclectically-interested and have lots on my To Do list. I’m sure it’s the same with you. If I’m always looking ahead to the next thing on the list (or popping over to my email and Facebook accounts), I cannot give the task at hand adequate attention. It won’t be the best it can be.

This is one reason I love my lists. I don’t have to worry about forgetting something important. Plus, if I arrange my list in order of priority, I can work from the top to the bottom, knowing, if I don’t get everything done, at least those things that were most pressing are the first things to get scratched off the list.

When my mind is at rest, I can dive into the responsibility I’m pursuing right this minute.

And yet . . .

An important text may come through. A phone call I shouldn’t ignore. Or an unforeseeable but unavoidable change in plans. That’s when the flexibility kicks in.

One day, for example, I looked forward to working in a quiet house to make a huge dent in my list. And then . . . first thing in the morning, I got 1) a request for transportation and 2) an invitation for lunch. I could have said no, but spending time with this young friend was good for both of us. (And lunch was tasty too.)

Not everything that comes along should derail or postpone our plans, but there are times we need to be flexible as well as focused.

When you set aside time for your writing, how can you tell if you should forge ahead or allow a request to alter your plans?

Here is a series of questions to ask before making a decision:

  1. Can you fulfill the request at a later time? If so, keep to your writing schedule.
  2. Can someone else do what has been asked of you? If so, give them the opportunity to do so.
  3. Is it a matter of conditioning to answer the doorbell, the telephone, the buzz on your cell phone that indicates you have a new email? If so, it may take time, but it’s good to view these distractions as “the urgent” that impinges upon “the important,” as Stephen Covey puts it.
  4. Are you simply following the White Rabbit down yet another rabbit hole? Sometimes it’s best to steer clear of fuzzy distractions.
  5. Is it a genuine emergency? If so, then, of course, walk away from your writing.
  6. Is a family member or friend facing a crisis? If so and there is something you can do—even lend a listening ear—do so without hesitation.
  7. Has an even more exciting writing opportunity presented itself? If so, you may want to designate the time to a different project.
  8. Is your daughter turning 25 the next day and you have to choose between writing and making her favorite dessert? If so, crack those eggs and beat that cake batter. (Wait! That would be me. My “baby” hit the quarter century mark this past Saturday.)

How do you achieve the balance between focus and flexibility?



by Stephanie Nickel , CES Editor, Writer, Coach, and Critique Specialist 

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