It's been a hard time for focus, lately.

There is so much happening and it's easy to keep looking at the latest, to retweet the stuff that bothers you or that you agree with. It's easy to look at all the terrible things happeneing and question whether what you're doing even matters or to try to find something, anything you can do to help.

Even on a personal level, my life has been tumultuous. I've been in employment limbo for months and just relocated to Scotland to finish my studies. Not surprisingly, I haven't been particularly productive.

I've always struggled with motivation. I get a lot done, but it's mostly the stuff that I want to get done or the things I need to get done. One of the issues with this approach to task management is that the longer I let an unwanted task sit, the harder it is to start. Part of this is just me psyching myself out - the longer you put something off, the more unpleasant it must be, right? Some of this is guilt, because timelines slip and you feel bad for holding up others. Some of this is a really poor motivation technique (When things get bad enough, I tell myself that I don't get to do the things I want to until I do the Ugly Thing and I end up hitting refresh on social media until it's time for bed). Perhaps the bigger problem is that I do almost everything unfocused and distracted. I sort of assume this is true for everyone, but I don't actually know. Many of us assume that our internal states are a model for those of others.

But - I can feel my mind settling. I haven't felt this way in months. And that got me thinking. I've always done my best work when my mind settles. If I'm lucky, this takes a few hours of uninterrupted, unfocused exploration - think web trawling. When I think something is important enough, this happens as a natural consequence of focused, intense effort. I know running gets me there, but I hadn't thought about the problem in these terms until now. This is a huge blind spot for me, likely because I've gotten away with it until now.

Well, not entirely. I'm in Scotland to finish my studies in part because I let ugly necessary tasks sit for too long. And it's really easy to rationalize that truth away - the tasks were pointless hoop jumping with no real outputs to prove that I could do things that I was already doing. I was busy doing other things that did matter which ended up super beneficial for my career, but I couldn't have known that going in.

None of that matters. I should have done the thing.

Think carefully about the work you avoid. Why are you avoiding it? Should you be doing it?

Be honest with yourself about the answers to those questions, and be ready to make changes if you don't like them.

And next time, start with the thing you don't want to do before it gets bigger.

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