Chasing Shiny Things

“When I sit down to work on a project, an idea comes to me that maybe isn’t completely relevant to the task at hand—maybe it’s theoretical or conceptual. And, it’s like this shiny thing off to the side. I feel like it’s important for me to examine it. And, so I do. But then I see another shiny thing, and I examine that. And, then all this time goes by, and the task I need to get done never gets done.”

Does this sound familiar?…

A client of mine was finding it challenging to stay focussed on a less-than desirable task she needed to do for work. She shared the above with me, and I’m sharing it here (with her permission, of course!…) because I think—especially for those of us who identify as “creative” folks—we’ve ALL experienced this at some point (if not, regularly). Heck, this giant, glowing orb of diversion caught my attention while sitting here trying to write this post:

If a blog post is on the internet, but nobody reads it,
does it exist?… 

[puts “serious mindfulness blogger” mask back on] 

Ok, so what does this have to do with mindfulness?… Well, the mindfulness meditation technique can help when we’re working on a more focussed, analytical and/or linear task and notice that we’re starting to get sucked into the tangential trance of chasing shiny things that pop up along the way.

When meditating, we focus our attention on a specific anchor point (like the sensation of the breath or ambient sounds, etc). And, when we notice our attention has drifted away from this anchor, we gently redirect it back to the anchor point.

When applying this technique to our work, the anchor becomes the task at hand (like, say… writing a blog post). And, anytime we notice we’ve drifted away from the focus of the task, we gently redirect it back.

And, sure, sometimes following shiny things is helpful—like when we’re engaged in a creative project, or we’re brainstorming. Meandering when we’re being creative is an essential part of the process. And many tasks require some mixture of pointed focus and more expansive exploration.

As with everything, it’s about finding the balance. It can be helpful to have a specific place where an idea (or “shiny thing”) can live when it arises during a more focussed task. You can then quickly jot the idea down and toss it into a folder for revisiting and exploring later.

And, if you’re lucky…. Perhaps you can find a way to constructively weave a shiny thing into the task of writing about how not to get diverted by shiny things.