In this season of life and business, focus is a bad-news, good-news situation for me.
Focus has not been my strong suit lately. My brain does the mambo every time I try to use it. Having kids around 24/7 does not help with all that, but also I believe that focus is one of those things that the more you chase, the less you catch.
Closing your eyes, tightening your first and repeating to yourself “I’m going to focus, I’m going to focus, I’m going to focus…” does not work.
Well, I think I finally found an answer to my focus problem in the book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World* by Cal Newport.
Usually, I don’t like advice that claims to help you be a better parent, be more productive, organize your home, etc., because my life is just very different from a ‘regular’ mom’s or even the lives of other business owners.
I am a mompreneur who also homeschools her kids and has a business owner husband who travels a lot. So I get a little frustrated with the one-formula secret stuff — I tend to think it won’t work for me. But when my husband and I heard about this book from a friend, we decided to read it and give it a go.
At least that’s what we took from it. Multitasking might seem like a superpower, but it’s actually detrimental to your focus and ultimately to your productivity and sanity.
How many times have you pulled out some work, thinking you could just do a little bit while watching the kids, but actually either didn’t do much at all or it just wasn’t that good and worth it between the bathroom trips, getting the snacks, breaking up fights and pretending to be a human encyclopedia?
Yes, all the time I’m sure — at least for me, and especially since we don’t have a nanny anymore.
We were excited by the potential to not only do our best work but also be present and unpreoccupied when we’re with the kids AND have a chance to work on our side passions.
Being able to do all that with the 24 hours we’re all given, yet still get enough sleep and not be stress-monster parents? That’s gold!
As mentioned before, my life is very specific, I live with two breathing and walking distractions who count on me, and I do enjoy connecting with other humans on social media probably a bit too much. But my husband and I were able to make its concepts our own.
We both wake up at 5/5:30 a.m. — before the trauma of being woken up by kids calling out our name or standing still by our bed.
He then goes to his office and works on his business until 12 p.m. with no distraction: strict deep work. In the afternoons, he dedicates his time to whatever personal project he may have — writing a story, getting better at the electric guitar, writing and producing a short film, or training for a half marathon (which he all did this year), before coming home satisfied with what he produced and ready to be a husband and daddy — fully!
For me, I get to work completely uninterrupted until the kids rise up. I am then able to be with them without feeling the rush and anxiety of getting to work and hitting that to-do list, since I already had some dedicated deep work time. I also do some more work during nap time, tying up loose ends for the day.
The best part of this is that because we work as a team, twice a week my husband comes home after his business work time and takes care of the afternoon parenting duties and dinner, so that I can lock myself away and work on bigger creative projects that require more time and room from me.
1) I get more and better work done. 2) When I’m with the kids, well, I’m with the kids — in body and mind. I can be a mom and just a mom. 3) No more work in the evenings! Once the kids are in bed, it’s our time to be together and grow our friendship and marriage.
You must make the decision to figure out your priorities, the decision to start a process, the decision to do this process everyday.
I don’t necessarily think my system would work for you specifically, but I do hope it encourages you to DECIDE what you want your life to look like and then create your own system that gives you room, space and time to do deep work. To do your best work, yet not at the expense of your life priorities.
In the book, Cal presents different examples of the ways people achieve deep work and find focus and success through it. For example, he writes:
“If you keep interrupting your evening to check and respond to e-mail, or put aside a few hours after dinner to catch up on an approaching deadline, you’re robbing your directed attention centers of the uninterrupted rest they need for restoration. Even if these work dashes consume only a small amount of time, they prevent you from reaching the levels of deeper relaxation in which attention restoration can occur. Only the confidence that you’re done with work until the next day can convince your brain to downshift to the level where it can begin to recharge for the next day to follow. Put another way, trying to squeeze a little more work out of your evenings might reduce your effectiveness the next day enough that you end up getting less done than if you had instead respected a shutdown.”
Doing deep work is different for everyone, but it’s possible for everyone. Make the decision. It might require for you to break old and strong habits, but it’s worth it! Focus is about lifestyle!
MotherHustle Panelist Katell Schmitz is the creative director + brand designer at Reverie Lane Designs and The Creative Session, where she works with passionate dreamers on a mission to create beautiful, memorable and impactful brands. She’s a French expat who’s living her American dream but also gets homesick from time to time. She’s a happy wife and mama of two and presently lives with her multicultural family in Boston. Find her on Facebook and Instagram.
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