Reflection: Clients tell me all the time that the most difficult challenge in the midst of overload is to know where to focus your attention and how to keep it there. Tasks seem equally important and there are lots of them in play. It’s easy to find yourself bouncing around accomplishing little or nothing at all – an experience that adds to the overwhelm.
When this happens to you (and this is one of those seasons when overload runs rampant), it’s time to practice chiaroscuro. What, you say? Chiaroscuro? No, you don’t need to know how to spell it or pronounce it, you just need to know how to use it.
In the world of art, chiaroscuro is a technique that highlights the main subject in the foreground, while shifting the lesser details into the shadows. When applied to a painting for instance, your eye may wander through the entire image, but because of the high contrast your attention repeatedly returns to the main event.
It’s a formal term for what my most recent art instructor told me would strengthen my watercolors. In his words, “Show more gumption with your darks.” And truly, when you add contrast, when you force a few elements into the background, the main focus pops to the fore.
Action: Chiaroscuro applied to the too-much-ness of life can help you get a grip on overload. Try it today.
Pause for a moment and choose the one task that absolutely positively needs your attention. Shine a strong light on that task in these ways:
- Place it at the top of your written to-do list and highlight or star.
- Post Priority One on a note in a spot where you will see it repeatedly through the day.
- Put the Job One project file front and center on your desk, or if it’s electronic work, front and center on your desktop.
- Book an appointment with yourself to tackle your number one task.
Force other tasks clamoring for your attention into the background in these ways:
- Fold your paper To Do list – or resize your Outlook My Day Task list – so that other less important items are not readily visible.
- Clear your desktops (physical and electronic) of distracting items.
- Silence your email and text deliveries so you are not tempted by incoming messages.
- Close your web browser to short circuit the impulse to interrupt and distract yourself with things unrelated.
Pay attention to how it feels to make serious progress on Job One today. I’m guessing it will lighten your spirit and ease your load.
Quote Of The Week: “Nothing is as fatiguing as the hanging on of an uncompleted task.” – William James
Resources Of The Week: Check out this video explanation of the Pomodoro Technique – a simple system to add more chiaroscuro to your life.
Software developers are also weighing in on the issue of distractability and the overload that ensues with their solutions. Here are links to a couple of articles on apps to help you focus:
Readers Write: In response to last week’s message on Awfulizing, Pause reader LC sent along a pic of a doorknob hang tab created by Loretta Laroche (well known humorist and stress buster). The tag reads: Do Not Disturb – We’re Awfulizing & Catastrophizing. LC notes the tag hangs on their office door at home to remind them to appreciate each day and be grateful for their many blessings
Tags: burnout, commitment, focus, motivation, overload, overwhelm, painting, Pat Katz, Patricia Katz, pause, perspective, productivity, Saskatoon, speaker, stress, success, time, watercolor, wellness, workload