A week or two ago, I was asked to give a couple of presentations as part of a selection process for some teaching work. The brief for the first of these presentations was simple: talk about anything you like for the allotted time. Simple? Definitely not.
If you are an ‘options’ person – someone who is interested in many, many different things – being given ‘carte blanche’ to present on anything you like is pretty much destined to paralyse your thoughts. (See my previous post on ‘Scanners’.) I prepared three presentations before deciding on the fourth.
This is not new behaviour, it has been ingrained in my personality almost from birth I guess. It’s only relatively recently that I’ve found a way to maintain some focus. Somewhere along the way, I decided that my work should consist of four main branches: Coaching, Teaching, Writing and Art. These four words became a mantra. Once I had the mantra, choosing became much easier. If a new project didn’t fall into one of those boxes, I didn’t choose to take it on. Every time an enticing new subject came my way, threatening to dilute my energies, the mantra came to the rescue. And slowly but surely, my desired work has become my actual work and I am doing all four activities. (This of course, is not ‘rocket surgery’ as one of my favourite stand-up comics puts it. You get what you focus attention on and work hard at.)
Focusing on a few strands or projects at any one time means that you actually make progress, instead of constantly spinning too many plates. It also makes it much easier for your prospective clients (either an employer or buyers) to understand your offer. And when it’s time to review those strands and how important each is to you now, then you can replace one, two or all of them.
Can you simplify your work or life into strands that must be there? What is your mantra? I’d love to hear.
And, if you have 20 minutes, this TED talk by Sheena Inyengar is a fascinating look at the whole question of choosing.