Where focus goes, time goes
When we talk about time management, people tend to think exclusively about organization and activities. They look at what they do and forget how important it is to watch their thoughts and focus. Each person’s habitual thoughts strongly determined how much time they have left to work on important projects.
Let me show you what I mean. Imagine if you were to observe what your mind does for one month and keep track of every minute spent on the following:
- Being critical of others.
- Complaining and venting.
- Trying to control what isn’t within your control.
- Resisting decisions that have already been made.
- Talking about the way things should be instead of facing reality.
- Discussing what could go wrong and catastrophizing.
- Feeling guilty about what you didn’t finish.
- Worrying about what’s left to do.
- Being anxious about an upcoming meeting.
- Feeling guilty about procrastinating on an intimidating or a boring project.
- Choosing distractions to avoid something you don’t want to do.
- Making assumptions about people’s thoughts or hidden agendas.
- Being afraid of the unknown.
- Being overly focused on protecting the self.
- Seeking approval and validation.
- Being jealous of someone who got something you wanted.
- Looking for sympathy or connection by making people feel bad for you.
- Bonding with others over shared pain and unhappiness.
- And the list goes on and on…
People whose minds seldom engage in these poor thinking habits rarely struggle with time management. Their minds are clear and able to focus on their work.
They may still feel pressure if they have unrealistic standards and expectations, but they are at a huge advantage because their minds are uncluttered. They know how to prioritize, follow-through, and get things done without their minds creating unhealthy distractions.
Take a minute and ask yourself what thought patterns you have. Please don’t be self-critical; the point here is to become self-aware so that you can make some changes, not to blame yourself.
Quantifying time spent on disempowering thoughts can be a powerful wake up call. People often believe that thoughts happen to them, as if they were created outside of them, instead of realizing that their minds are their tools and they can learn to use their tools more effectively.
I invite you to start paying close attention to your focus and your thoughts. When you catch yourself spending time and energy on any of the thought patterns I listed above, choose deliberately where you want your attention to go instead.
The way your body feels is a good indication of the quality of your thoughts. If you start feeling anxious, it means your thoughts went to dark places. If you feel energized and eager to work on a project, your mind is in the right place.
You might argue that it is difficult to observe your thoughts or observe how your body feels when you are in the middle of a crisis. I agree. When you are reacting to something after being triggered and you’ve lost your ability to be intentional, being mindful seems out of reach.
The solution is to develop a daily mindfulness practice. The most powerful thing a leader can do is to learn to quiet the mind, observe objectively, and be fully in the moment. There is no shortcut, no magic pill. Like any other skills, presence and mindfulness are developed over time, with practice.
Once you are self-aware, you can retrain your brain to develop new thinking patterns that will allow you to free up an enormous amount of time. Imagine no more time and energy wasted on fearful thoughts, on complaining, on trying to solve problems that don’t even exist, etc. Not only will you create more free time but you will also transform how you feel. You will feel more energetic, optimistic, engaged, empowered, and you’ll become more productive, effective, and influential.
This new you, this better you, will be an inspirational role model and a strong leader. The ripple effects will amaze you. It all starts with one new habit: watching your thoughts and choosing your focus.
A college campus is often filled with tension within the leadership team, or between faculty and administrators, or departments or leaders who want different things. Trying to quit negative thinking on a campus can sometimes feel like trying to quit sugar while working at a bakery. Temptation to revert to old habits is everywhere. Don’t take the bait. When people engage in disempowering conversations, you don’t have to engage. You can redirect the conversation or leave.
If it seems easier said than done, you need to create structure and accountability to succeed. I invite you to click here to schedule a complimentary call with me and discuss how I can help you transform your old habits into empowering ones, so that you can create more free time, serenity, and fulfillment in your life and career.
About the author: Dr. Audrey Reille has empowered thousands of professionals through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking engagements, online courses, and in-person training. Audrey is the go-to coach for leaders in higher education administration. She empowers them to thrive by reducing stress, optimizing strategies, improving professional relationships, and developing a strong and empowered mindset.