Failure is part of the process

At my first job after college, my office was a cubicle in a large room of many other cubicles (I affectionately referred to my workspace as “cubby hell.”).  My work friends made fun of me because when they stopped by my desk, I almost always had a massive startle response as soon as they spoke.  I once, unintentionally, threw a pen that ricocheted off my computer monitor and hit me in the face.

I have the ability — and liability, as you’ll soon see — to focus so intensely that I block out everything around me.  Tunnel vision has many benefits: I’m extremely productive.  I don’t waste time.  I tend to finish what I start.  However, prolonged intense focus has some significant downsides.  After a day with a packed schedule and unbroken concentration . . .

  1. I am Worn. Slap. Out. I have nothing left to give when I get home: “You say you want to eat a bag of Oreos and mindlessly watch a show on your iPad, eight-year-old? Go right ahead.  Mommy is DONE.”
  2. I have a sense that I am skimming over the surface of my life — super-productive but not fully present.  I have lots of “to-do” items marked off my list, but I can’t remember the last time I had an unhurried, meaningful conversation with anyone who is not a client.

Experiment #1 – Scheduling Breaks

So, last week, I decided to experiment with taking small breaks throughout the day.  The plan: I would regularly get up from my desk for five-minute breaks.  And for the first 4 hours of Monday, I was a rock star!  I stopped myself about once each hour to shift my focus and/or my body. It felt wonderful.  I was more energetic, and my thoughts seemed clearer and less rushed.  Then, for the rest of Monday . . . as well as Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday I proceeded to slip back into my natural rhythm of “head down, plow through.” Clearly, Experiment #1 was not a success.

Experiment #2 – The Pomodoro Technique

Time to practice what I preach and design another experiment.  This week I’ve installed a Chrome Extension called “Marinara,” a timer that runs on intervals aligned with the Pomodoro Technique.  I’m hoping that the alarm will grab my attention and that the varied intervals of work and breaks will be more sustainable than last week’s ill-fated attempt to take a break once every hour. 

I share this personal challenge and failed first experiment because I hope it will encourage you to keep experimenting to make a change YOU desire!  So often, my clients decide they want to make a change and get derailed when their first experiment toward doing so doesn’t work.  It may take me several iterations and repeated experiments, but I’m determined to find the right combination of uninterrupted focus and break time that will allow me to feel productive and energized simultaneously.

Designing and executing experiments to address changes you can control is a recurring theme in our Transforming Success® program. A new virtual version of our Transforming Success® program launches in early 2021, click here to learn more about Transforming Success® Virtual and register to be part of our first cohort.

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