Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Talky Tuesday: Word of the Year: Focus

Image courtesy Ryan McGuire

I've never been one for New Year's resolutions, and this year was no different. But I was attracted to this concept of the "word of the year," as I wrote elsewhere, and chose the word focus:
A few people I follow and vaguely know online have talked about this concept of a "word of the year" instead of resolutions. Even though it kind of violates all of the standard rules about what a good goal is (clear, achievable, incremental, etc.) the concept seems to work well enough, so I thought I would give it a shot. 
Reflecting on the past year, I think the one thing that has hurt me the most is focus—rather, lack thereof. I am interested in approximately a thousand things, and I want to be approximately a thousand things, but I can't sit down and focus on any of those for long enough to get anywhere so I just end up pissing away my time on Facebook while I "try to remember" what it was I wanted to do.
Now that it's well into April, how are things going?

One clear improvement is in how many tabs I keep open in Chromium. This is a totally trivial thing but it's hard to focus on one project (finishing a blog post, writing an Etsy listing) when you have a thousand other tabs open. I had a habit of keeping tabs open for things I wanted to read later, or to discuss on the blog, and so my browser window was just a mess.

No more! I made a bookmark folder for "stuff to share later" and now I make liberal use of it. As a result, I can focus on online tasks easier, and get them done quicker (no more hunting through tabs: "Which one was it again...?") Bookmarks feel like 90s web 1.0 stuff, but it works, so whatever.

I'm also more on my own case about one thing at a time. When I'm stressed, I forget this, and start to cycle through tasks, but invariably if I catch myself doing that and slow down to just one, I feel better. More accomplished. The question is if, though. I've had some days where I got sucked into that black hole and went to bed feeling antsy and unfulfilled.

I'm also better at recognizing when I'm just futzing around and, as a result, finding something better to do, or finding something relaxing to do off the computer, which is invariably more relaxing than mindlessly refreshing Facebook. (This is slightly different than manically cycling through 400 different projects.)

Likewise with my open windows. I can leave a thousand windows open in a workspace and that's similarly distracting. But there's no excuse for that, especially in Linux—I think every available desktop environment for Linux has a multiple workspaces option, yet I hardly utilize it. It's like having a dual/multiple monitor setup with just one monitor.

Now I've been better about either closing windows I don't need, or organizing my workspaces by theme: jewelry stuff in this workspace, writing projects in another, and so on. Keeping a neat and tidy taskbar really makes you feel more organized.

One thing that really helped me a lot was a Coursera course: Learning How to Learn. It's the best MOOC I've taken so far, probably because it's on ideas that are instantly applicable to real life. Like: why do we procrastinate? how can we study more efficiently? I don't like the route that Coursera is taking—pushing their "specializations" that cost money over the stand-alone free courses—but there are still some gems to be had. Learning How to Learn is one of them. It's informative but low-key and low-stress. Most importantly, I learned to recognize when I'm procrastinating and to ask myself what painful experience I'm avoiding (sending an email, checking my bank account, finishing an assignment for Russian).

But focus is also applicable to the larger, long-term plans I have as well. I've begun to collect different blogs/businesses/outlets that I could partner with and started to reach out to them. I've decided on a career path to pursue beyond my jewelry and to take steps towards professionalism.

I didn't realize it, but leaving things so hazy and undecided was really fucking with my chi. I can deal with outside-imposed limbos and purgatories: waiting for paperwork to clear, waiting for acceptance/rejection letters. It sucks but knowing that it's out of my control is something of a relief, if that makes sense? But when it's all self-imposed, that's another thing entirely.

So, overall, my word of the year is going really well and helping me get my shit together.

Do you have a word of the year? Do you think you need one?


  1. This was brilliant and exactly what I needed to read today! In therapy yesterday, my specialist suggested I change up my morning routine and FOCUS on my strengths and desires. :D

    1. Aww I try my best!!

      I think we live in a really overstimulating age that makes it hard for anyone to really focus. If you have the time, I really recommend that Coursera course! It was that great combination of "interesting" and "immediately applicable."