Back in January, I shared my 3 words for 2016. One of my words is FOCUS. I like to be busy problem-solving, creating, and learning, but I want to make sure that I am ALL IN on each project that I’m working on. One of my secrets to success is that I like to follow routines, and I’m self-disciplined (mostly!) when it comes to finishing projects and following through on ideas.
I recently discovered Henry Miller’s daily routine that he adhered to while working on his first published novel, Tropic of Cancer, in 1932-1933. His 11 Commandments are timeless, and I think they’re applicable to the busy life of an educator.
Work on one thing at a time until finished. There’s a lot of research that shows that multitasking is a myth. We actually start/stop tasks quickly, and the start/stop process is not efficient and saps our energy. It can also lead to more mistakes, which can end up costing us more time.
Start no more new books, add no more new material to ‘Black Spring.’ Don’t start one project until the first one is finished. My husband and I can fall into this trap, because we love doing home projects. Sometimes, we start another one before we’re finished with the one we started. We have to intentionally (and out loud) tell ourselves no. In education, sometimes we want to jump to the “next new thing” because it’s exciting/new/interesting/helpful. It’s important to finish what we start and devote the necessary time to it.
Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand. Attitude is a choice, and the attitude we choose as we work will affect the outcome. Choose to face your tasks with positive energy, so that the ripple effects will be positive to those around you.
Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time! This quote reminds me of coaching. I would tell my players that they can’t work only when they feel like it. We had to stick to a schedule and work joyously because we wanted success as our outcome. When learning something new, solving a problem, writing a blog, coaching other educators, or more, be consistent in your efforts or you will be faced with failure.
When you can’t create you can work. Truth is, we aren’t inspired all of the time. This is not a negative thing, but it’s reality. Instead of focusing on not being inspired, focus on the work.
Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers. There are so many awesome ideas that are circulating in the education world right now. From applying entrepreneurship ideas to incorporating technology in creative and engaging ways, it is easy to get caught up in trying the new latest idea. When you find a good one, get great at it. (Focus)
Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it. This applies to the importance of relationships in education. It’s important to build relationships with students as well as other educators. Students want to learn from an adult who they knows cares about him/her. Learning is social, and as educators, we should be the greatest advocates and models for lifelong learning.
Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only. A draft horse is a large horse bred to pull heavy loads and do hard tasks. Don’t get so rigid with your schedule that you lose the joy in what you do. And as another saying goes, “When you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.”
Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go back to it next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude. There may be times when you need to step back and reevaluate your goals and your path to those goals. When you step back, re-evaluate your efforts and determine if you need to make changes. Perhaps you start down a path of implementing a new teaching strategy, and you realize that you are achieving the goals you set out to reach. It would be time to approach your plan with fresh eyes and make changes that will lead to success.
Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing. Don’t lose focus on your current project. Honor your commitment to the current project and see it to success. Being present in the moment and giving your all to a project is one of the most respectful things you can do for yourself.
Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards. Distractions will always be available and tempting. None will compare to the satisfaction of completing a project to its completion. Keep your focus and practice self discipline.