Keep Calm and ……Focus

Written by Gordon Nuttall. 

Sometimes it seems like there are not enough hours in the day. When I began working on this blog I started typing a list of what forms a typical day in my family & working life.  My list would be pretty reflective of most working parents…just looking at it made my stress levels rise and energy levels dip. I stopped and deleted!

That’s not how I actually feel on a daily basis (although I do have my moments!). I reached for my cup of tea before beginning again, and the words on the cup read, ‘Keep Calm and Breathe’. If you are reading or have read our other blogs you will have realised by now that both as a business and as individuals we are huge believers in personal development and health and wellbeing.

It’s all too easy to get caught on the treadmill and be rushing through your day, doing one thing but thinking about the next, replaying something that happened in the past, or looking ahead to some time or event in the future. When this happens your mind is not actually focused on what you are doing – which means you can’t enjoy what you are doing, which means you are missing out on life. “Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.” Eckhart Toll, The Power of Now

I find it helpful to remind myself wherever possible to focus on doing the thing I am doing in the moment with my full attention, to the best of my abilities, until it is done. That may be something simple like getting my kids ready for school. If I am aware enough to listen to them, to engage with them, to help them feel good and to get into a positive state of mind before leaving for the day, then I’m calm and peaceful as I move onto my next task. Sounds easy I know, but anyone who has ever had to get two reluctant kids out of bed, dressed, washed, fed, geared up with lunch/PE kit etc. and to school/nursery on time, will appreciate feeling calm at the end of this process is no easy task.

It means however that as I start my day, and move onto my next task – my state of mind is peaceful and focused.

I like to ensure my day is planned out, and before leaving the office each night, whenever that is, I allocate planning time, purely to focus on identifying my priorities and schedule my next day accordingly.

Life however, doesn’t always recognize neatly planned out schedules and lists of priorities. When the inevitable curve balls start coming, it’s easy to become reactive to situations, and stressed by an ever mounting to do list. The reality is, if you want to be good at what you do – you need to make decisions about how to spend your time, and what issues to focus your attention on.  Once you have decided what needs done, focus on that task to the exclusion of all others until it is complete. Do each small thing in your day to the best of your abilities. By all means take time to identify what you want to do each day, but realize that you have to make decisions on how many things you can do to the best of your abilities. Finishing a task, knowing you have done your best and moving on to the next in this knowledge, is far preferable to knowing you only gave this task half your attention because you were worried about fitting in another task. The latter promotes stress and tension; the former promotes calm and wellbeing.

My four year old is prone on occasion to a bit of a temper tantrum. At present, we are trying to teach him to deal with this, so as he starts to get himself frustrated – we ask him, ‘When you get angry do things get better or worse? When you calm down do things get better or worse?’ He is gradually learning at 4, something it took me years longer to grasp.

The most effective use of your energy is to give your full attention to what you are dealing with in the present moment. Focusing on what has already happened in the past or what might happen with things still to come will only cause stress, anxiety and frustration. Being focused on what I am doing and completing each task to the best of my ability helps me maintain a state of peace and calm that filters though into all aspects of my life.  So for me, a simple way to remember and apply this, is to Keep Calm and Focus.

Here are some quotes, which I use as gentle reminders.

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” — Mother Teresa

“The future depends on what you do today.” — Mahatma Gandhi

It's being here now that's important. There's no past and there's no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can't relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don't know if there is one.” — George Harrison