Right out of veterinary medical school, I dived right into my practice. It overtook my every waking moment. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and even on my days off, I’d be in the clinic. Finally after a number of years, it got to be too much and I sold my practice.
It’s taken me a number of years to really appreciate the power and importance of a very simple principle: Focus on what you’re doing and when you’ve done all that can be done at that time, just drop it. Go on to something else.
That sounds simple enough, but it’s not so easy to do in business. There are always loose ends and unanswered questions that you desperately need to have answered. For example, what will be the response to an offer you made? When you get the report back from the accountant, how much are your taxes going to be and do you have the money to pay them? Will you find the right employee for a position that opened up and desperately needs to be filled? After you’ve addressed questions the best you can in the moment, if you don’t let them go, they’ll compromise your business, your health and your personal life.
There is even a deeper principle at work here. By letting an issue go, you become more adept at addressing it. The ancient sage, Patanjali, referred to a technique he called “Samyama” in his discussion of the Yoga Sutras. The basic idea is that if you take a thought and let it go, it drifts to the depth of your being where you are addressing it in a very different manner. You’re not even thinking about it, but you’re with it. It’s like an incubation or culturing period when the thought is being processed deep within your being. Then, when the thought reemerges later, it takes on a new form, including new insights and perspectives. It’s like taking a fresh new look at it. But according to Patanjali, the important part of the process happens during the period of letting it go.
The Samyama technique helps us stop going through life with the mind divided on several different topics. When you’re with your family, you’re 100 percent with your family. When you’re with the business, you’re 100 percent with the business. In so doing, your mind becomes uncluttered, unfettered and undistracted. This technique is something that can be done right away once the commitment is made to do it.
Whatever it is you’re doing right now is the place to start. Stop thinking and worrying about anything else. Just be with the issue at hand. At some point, you’ll get to the place where there is nothing more to do with it. Perhaps the project isn’t completed, but it’s as far as you can take it right now.
Then it’s time to move on to the next thing. It could be another business project or it could be picking up your kids from school. Whatever it is, just choose to commit yourself to that and that alone. If the next thing is to pick up your kids at school, use the time in the car on the way to get them to shift your attention to them. Perhaps think of things you want to ask them about their day or what all of you might do when you get home. What you don’t want to do is still have your mind in the office when your body is with the kids.
This isn’t the same thing as mindfulness or “staying in the now.” You might be thinking about tomorrow or yesterday as it pertains to the topic at hand. It’s just about focusing and staying with one topic at a time. It’s essentially the opposite of multitasking.
The most challenging part of doing this is switching from one thing to another. That’s the time you need to make the decision to make the switch and stick to it. This can even include being interrupted by a coworker when you’re working at your desk. Making the switch from attention on your current project to your coworker’s project or question can be challenging. However, trying to do both at the same time compromises both.
Taking a little inspiration from the ancient sage Patanjali and applying it to your daily life in this way can go a long way to making you a healthier, happier, more productive and successful individual, not only in your business, but also in your personal life.