In the previous posts we established what characterizes the scattered mind state, some characteristics of a good plan, and a step-by-step list to return from the scattered state. In today’s post, we’ll look at potential danger spots leading to scattered states and end the series with an example.

 

Warning Signs for the Future

 

There are times that are more ripe than others for attention to break.

Waiting for a task to complete, for example, can invite moving on to something else before a project is complete or the loops are closed. This can occur even for short periods. For example, waiting for a website to load may even be invitation to check out another site, or make a call, or do something else unrelated to the present defined task.

gabber by Hugh MacLeod

gabber by Hugh MacLeod

A variation on this is knowing what work does best in silence. Especially in creative endeavors, there are times when one needs to simply be able to tolerate silence or periods without actually doing something. One needs to actively sit and reflect without taking action when no action comes to mind.
This is, in a sense, another form of waiting. If nothing comes to mind after a reasonable period of silence, then one needs to consciously decide whether to wait further or close the loops and perhaps set up time for a next session to work again.

We clear the field, define a small task, and work it towards completion. In doing so, we re-align intention and attention.
Rather than be pulled by the weights flung about the room, we place them all down, and decide consciously and deliberately to focus on one small one.

 

An example

 

I see a kitchen table that needs clearing. There are many things on it, some of which are open loops themselves, all of which are distracting. I’d like to get something done.

If I am quite scattered, then I could just grab one of the pieces of paper and start working on it. Then another object will catch my eye and I will begin to work on that.

In starting to clear my mind, I realize that things are all over the place and nothing is getting done. Perhaps I need to clean the table then. So I begin to clear the table. While moving a dirty dish to the countertop I notice that there are dishes piled in the sink. Well the dishes need to be done don’t they? I start to do those forgetting that the kitchen table is still a mess.

I haven’t cleared anything.

Instead, I stop and realize that things are not going anywhere. Now, rather than returning to the original task, I remain with the present task. Here is a main difference that I highlighted earlier.

I define what I am doing. What am I doing? I am doing the dishes.

How long will it last? Until the dishes are cleaned and placed in the drying rack.

Ok, but there are a lot of dishes. Fine. Perhaps I will do 3 dishes. The rest will have to wait. Ok then. I decide I will do 3 dishes.

But there are so many other things to do! Ok. With a pad and paper, write the things to do. Well, there is Project A, B, and C and, hmmm, I think there are a lot on the table. Inbox entries:

  • Establish the number and types of projects on the kitchen table.
  • Clear the kitchen table.
  • Finish the dishes.

 

These are things I will not do presently.

I begin work again and do the 3 dishes. As I do them, I remember I have to make a phone call. I complete the 3 dishes. I add to the Inbox, make phone call.
And I stop.

I have now completed something I intended to do. Things have been a whir. But, now, I have a very tiny seed of attention aligned with intention.

At this point, how you proceed depends upon the system of task management you use. If you have no system, you have at least a list built up from which you can work. The GTD system would entail adding the items to Project lists, establishing next actions and placing them on context lists. For example, clear kitchen table and complete dishes would go on Project: Clean Kitchen with a context of @kitchen.

 

I do hope you enjoyed this series. While clearly there is a lot more that can be said about the scattered state of mind as there are at least 101 ways to get there, to define one, and to get out of one, but hopefully this is a good start.