Focus is a constant struggle for us creatives, isn’t it?
We get by alright when we’re really motivated or when it’s explicitly clear what needs to be done. But left to our own devices, we’ll float around a room wondering what to do next, what to start or finish, what to throw away, and what to continue exploring.
Occasionally this process can lead to procrastination, or in some cases: exhaustion.
Yes, exhaustion. All of that thinking about what to work on next can weigh heavy on your mind. That stress often leads to a mental exhaustion where the last thing you want to do is work on much of anything. You know the feeling, right?
I run into this problem a lot, particularly for situations where one type of project starts to gain a lot of traction for growth while others need to merely be maintained.
It’s the reason my writing here on Creative Something has slowed over the past few months (something I want to get back to in the coming days).
What’s a creative to do? How do we know what to focus our energy on, what to ignore, and when to just take a much-needed break? How do we prioritize when everything seems important or full of potential?
When your path is uncertain: focus on who you are
Whenever you feel stuck or uncertain about priorities or what you should be doing, it’s always good to step back for a minute and just think about who you are.
Not in some psychedelic or existential way.
But really think about who you are and what you want to achieve long term. What would make you happiest when all of your pending work is completed? What is it that you believe in about the work you’re doing?
I’ve used the following quote a dozen or so times in the past, but I think it’s so relevant and important that it’s worth using again.
The quote is from one of my favorite writers and productivity experts Merlin Mann. He said (or, more accurately, he wrote): “We procrastinate when we’ve forgotten who we are.”
Think about the impact of that statement.
If you know who you are – that is what you believe in and what you’re aiming for and what makes you happiest in the long run – then there’s nothing to keep you from working on the right stuff. It won’t even feel like work.
You’re going to worry (as I do often) that the work isn’t up-to-par with your usual stuff. You’ll worry about the cynics and critics. You’ll worry about everything else that could possibly prevent you from working on the things that need to be worked on in any given moment.
But if you know who you are, all of that stuff sort-of fades into the background. It all becomes so very less important.
So if you start feeling overwhelmed with what needs to be done, take five minutes to just sit and think about who you really are.
If you had all of the time and money in the world, what would you do next? Go do that now.