Finding Focus Everyday
Sat on your bed, a cup of tea to your right, with your brand new MacBook Pro on your lap. Your eyes slowly move from the YouTuber on-screen to take in the empty room around you. In the corner of the room sits a small red notebook, with the words “The Calling, Not Yet The Job” printed across the front of it. You sigh for the briefest of moments, an acknowledgement of the intent and excitement you felt the day you bought it and wrote down those first ‘big ideas’. You swing your legs around to the side of the bed, and slowly clamber to your feet. The matted carpet feels cold against your feet. You lumber across the room towards the notebook. Beside it sit three other notebooks, each featuring more ideas and thoughts than the last. A white notebook — stained with ink and dirt — is home to most of the ideas that came in the months after you finished college. Leafing through the pages, you find notions of re-editing films, composing music for films, and plans for a big move to Canada. As you close it you notice a Steve Jobs quote penned across the back cover:
As you move to pick up the next notebook you think about the quote and how countless people live by that mantra every day. You think of the Casey Neistat’s of the world — the people that push new content out EVERY SINGLE DAY. People that have honed their craft purely by doing. You realise that every day your life is more enriched by those that had something to say or to share, and actually did it. People just like you. People with ideas. Creative, talented, frightened, and nervous people. People that know they’re opening themselves up to mass judgement with the single click of a button, but do it anyway because they believe in what they are making and saying. You could be one of them too.
The black notebook makes your heart skip a beat. Tucked at the bottom of the pile to help you avoid it, it’s the oldest of the notebooks. You open it to find the first page littered with ramblings. This notebook was your ‘Morning Pages’ journal, from a time when anxiety consumed your every day. You read some of the pages, acknowledging that some of the thoughts you’d put down as paranoia were in fact truths, and a lot of ramblings that felt true at the time now feel so naive. You wonder how you ended up there. What was your thought pattern at that time? Where are you now in comparison?
Setting the black notebook aside you slide the red notebook off the shelf. That same quote sits on the outside, paired with a Mark Twain quote inside the front cover. You love quotes, but have never understood why. They provide an immediate inspiration and fuel to try something new, but so rarely the spark to set things into motion. The red notebook still feels fresh. Ideas, meandering thoughts, fully trashed out concepts & muddled up figures and sketches. After months of sitting idle, they still feel achievable. They still hold purpose. So what now?
You return to your bed, hitting play once more on the latest vlog from Casey. You watch and feel inspired again to push yourself to do more. The vlog finishes and you move to the kitchen to make a fresh cup of tea. A few hours pass. You spent most of that time reading ideas and writing down new ones.
2pm rolls around and you have to go to work. You feel tired. You are grateful for the job, though you feel unfulfilled by the work itself. As you put on your uniform you accidentally stab yourself with the pin on your name tag. Again, seriously!? You grab your keys and head for the door, leaving in your car a moment later. As you drive you think about the tasks ahead at work. Nothing stands out as daunting — it feels routine now. 15 minutes pass and you find yourself stopped at a level crossing waiting for a train to pass. The latest song from Calvin Harris and Rihanna plays on the radio. You begin to reflect on your morning. “What did I do today?” You feel disappointed in yourself at your lack of action. You had a ton of great ideas, but nothing materialised and you have nothing to show for it but a bunch of notes on a page. Disappointed in yourself you proceed to work, and finish at 10pm.
11pm. Another day over. Finally home, you make a cup of tea and settle on the couch for a little downtime. Today was not productive. You go to sleep at 12, setting your alarm for 6am as you start work at 7am.
The Next Day
You arrive at work, groggy, dazed, and ill-prepared for the task of unbundling the mornings newspapers. You accidentally prick your finger with the knife used to cut the bales open. A spec of blood gets on the front of one of the papers. You feel like the day is going to be a long one.
Work moves quicker than you expected. The joys of being busy. By 4pm you are home and shattered tired. You nap and awake an hour later in a complete daze. The day feels wasted. You wonder when will you find time to do the things you actually want to do.
This cycle repeats for weeks, until one morning you find that red notebook again, only this time something clicks for you. You reach for it, take the first idea you find inside and begin to try and create it. It feels good. You feel good. The idea becomes more than words on a page, it becomes something tangible, something meaningful. You smile. 2pm rolls around and you bolt out the door to work, excited to get to 10pm and return home to continue working on making that one idea into a reality.
That night you fall asleep at half 2, your laptop discarded on the floor beside your bed. The little red notebook lies open, face down, to its left. You sleep sound. In the space of one day, you worked on one idea and made it into a reality. It didn’t work out as planned but you learnt from the experience. One thousand ideas, only one execution. Tomorrow, you get to go to work to make a wage, and in the hours before and after it you can choose from a thousand more ideas, and get to tick one more off the list. You wonder how it took you so long to get to this point. In hindsight, you learn that the hardest part was starting. That in any case - whether in the days where you had no job, or when you were in college, or more importantly, right now - applying yourself for just one small block of time every day helps you build routine. While the initial return feels small, you know that creating one thing every single day, helps you feel better in yourself, and when that happens you learn and greatly increase your output.