A common refrain amongst my coaching clients, and most people these days, is finding it challenging to pay deep attention to meaningful activities. Even after addressing low-hanging fruit—for example: eliminating distractions, designing the physical environment, and timing specific tasks—many people still struggle. The solution, it seems, almost always involves creating more space; space between activities in the day, days in the week, and weeks in the year.
Even if your capacity to pay attention is world-class, you still need periods of restoration and a manageable load of things to pay attention to. Back-to-back-to-back high attention activities is draining over the course of a day, no less over the course of a week or year. Having eight high-priority endeavors ensures that none will actually be high priority, since you won’t be fully there for any of them.
Creating space works on two complementary levels: physical space (and time) between activities and also psychological space between priorities. Neither eight meetings in a day nor eight balls to juggle in a mind lead to great outcomes.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and struggling to focus, it is likely you are also feeling a sense of behindness on the important stuff in your life. The first-pass response is to do more, to try and catch up. It’s worth considering the opposite, doing less, being more, and as a result, doing (and feeling) better. There is no one-size-fits all solution or formula for space, at least not that I am aware of. A few strategies, about which I write extensively in The Practice of Groundedness, include creating not to-do lists, focusing on productive activity instead of productivity, and shifting your mindset around efficiency to think of the difference between efficiency over the course of a day versus efficiency over the course of a year or decade.
These are all good starting points to create more space in your days and life. As in a beautiful song, the rightness of something has every bit as much to do with the space between notes as it does with the notes themselves.
If you enjoyed this post, you'll love our new book Do Hard Things: Why We Get Resilience Wrong and The Surprising Science of Real Toughness! It provides a roadmap for navigating life’s challenges and doing so in a way that makes us happier, more successful, and, ultimately, better people.
For a limited time, It's over 30% Off! Get your copy today!