I recently subscribed to The Harvard Business Review.

Because, well ... Harvard.

An article I read a few weeks ago has been helpful to me as I struggle to find focus in these long days of winter, these seemingly endless days of the pandemic.  Has it really been a year?

The author of the article confessed his own attention struggles and shared three journal prompts that have helped him bring order out of the chaos of these strange days.


I will focus on ...

Here, he lists no more than 3-4 of the primary things he wants to accomplish and give his best attention to in the day ahead.

This forces prioritization.

It is a reminder that we can't accomplish everything. We must choose. We GET to choose. We need to choose, or things will choose us.

So for example, yesterday I had two work-related Zoom meetings and three smallish work-related projects. That was my Focus list.

Today, I have two important phone calls I want to give good attention to and I want to get a long workout in with enough time to stretch this tight-as-a-drum quarantine body. This is my Focus list.

This does not mean I won't get a myriad of other things done. It does mean, however, that I have decided - in advance - what I will give my best energies to.

Super helpful.

Next, the author suggests this prompt:

I am grateful for ... 

I know, I know. If I hear one more person tell me that I need to start a gratitude journal I am going to punch them in the nose!

But hear me out. This HARVARD guy says this really matters! So do it!

He suggests that we get really specific. We don't just get to write things like, "Coffee!" or "A warm house!" He pushes us to be super specific. There is some good research behind this, trust me. Harvard, remember?

So, I wrote things like:

"I am grateful we have health insurance so I can see a chiropractor today to get relief from my sore neck. I am grateful we can afford care for things like this. I bet it will help."

"I am grateful for my work colleagues I get to meet with today. I like them and they make me laugh and think."

"I am grateful for the book I am reading on self-compassion. I love good scientific research on topics that matter. I am grateful the author cares about this concept. I love what I am learning."

This simple act boosted my mood significantly. It forced me to get over the negativity bias we humans are prone to and pushed me to look for the good in a very average day.

Last prompt is:

I will let go of ...

There is some real power here, friend.

In order to focus on what matters we must let go of what doesn't.

This is just a fact.

So, rather than hoping I will be able to overlook distractions, I set out with intent to body check them before they even showed up on the scene.

I wrote things like,

"I will let go of checking news and social media this morning."

"I will let go of multi-tasking and will work on one project at a time."

"I will let go of texting while I work and will put my phone in the other room."

"I will let go of needing a clean home office today and will get right to work."

"I will let go of worrying about things I can't control. Instead, I will write them on a list as they pop into my head and will pray about them tomorrow morning. God will handle them better than me anyway."

This all took about 10 minutes.

I will focus on ...

I am grateful for ...

I will let go of ...

Three thoughtful prompts to help us find focus in these frenetic days.

Thanks, Harvard Business Review!