October is here already and my Fall theme is underway! I chose “Focus” as my theme because I was feeling full of fuel from my replenishing summer, and thought I could use it to close out a few projects. In practice I’m already re-learning my limits when it comes to focusing through on a project. In a way, I’m glad I recently reposted my Time Management for Sick People overview. It was good to have it fresh in my mind as I was reminded at how much energy focusing uses up for me nowadays.

Rather than making myself sit down to focus on a task or project x times a week, this theme is manifesting more in treating focus as a valuable resource. Basically, I have to be choosy about what I focus on, because the cost is severe compared to my past life.

Recently I was chatting with my mentor, Paloma Garcia-Lee, and mentioned wanting to come up with some kind of ritual that I could do to shortcut my brain into the right mindset to focus. We workshopped something and here’s what we came up with:

A tiny journal, open, showing pages inside
First, I bought this beautiful, hand-crafted mini-journal. It’s tiny and I can hang it around my neck and keep it with me. When I’m ready to truly focus on something, I get in a mindful state,  write down the thing in my tiny book, then tear out the page and crumple it up. It’s a bit like casting a spell.

The idea is that because I have to destroy a beautiful thing bit by bit when I do the ritual, I’d better be absolutely sure that the task is worth focusing on. It’s a way of physically representing the highly limited resource I have to spend when I focus, and truly works to clear everything else out of my brain to home in on what I’m doing.

Related is the way I’ve been thinking about the negative space of focus — how I have to allow the squishy, unplanned time to surround any focus time in order for it to work. It’s like having a stamina bar that drains REALLY quickly when performing an ability, but that refills extremely slowly over time. This season, I’m practicing letting my focus energy completely restore before I blast it on something else, rather than spending every drop as soon as it becomes available (my old, pre-sickness strategy)

Here’s a few places where the theme of “Focus” has come into play so far:

1. Part of the process of changing Google accounts was transferring all my photos from one to the other. While I was doing it, I figured it would be my best chance to sort all my photos into albums. I’ve successfully categorized 15 years worth of photos!

2. My work on my novel has been the subject of several focus sessions, and it’s all about to pay off. I’m so close to launching — just a few more typesetting edits! Proof #3 will be the one, I can feel it.

3. I’ve spent at least two of my ritual pages on outstanding tasks at work, and got myself to flow right through them

4. On my visit home, my Mom asked for help with organizing my Grandma’s photos so we can have them scanned. I didn’t spend a ritual page on this, but I did power through and get everything sorted!

A box of photos carefully organized by date
Behold! 8 decades worth of photos organized and ready for the archivist!

And here are ways I created space for my focus stamina bar to refill:

1. Playing a lot of Candy Crush

2. Puttering around the house and doing random, mindless bits, like taking care of my bird feeders and my garden

3. Spontaneous snuggling with my cat

4. Casual documentary viewing

The next time you list out your accomplishments for the week, also try listing out the ways you recovered. You might gain some insights!