Martha Beck: When Is It Okay to Lie?
Here's a short list of things you can do to help the flake in your life be more focused. They work especially well when the flake in question is you.
1. Acknowledge flakiness. Like addiction or illness, flakiness can be managed only when we admit it's there. Once you accept that a flake is flaky, you can roll up your sleeves and deal with the situation.
2. Allow wiggle room for flakiness. Everyone is flaky sometimes, so pick your battles. Direct strong focus toward your most important tasks and allow for a little flakiness in other areas. (Is it the end of the world if the dishes don't get done until tomorrow? Was this morning the only chance I had to get my car serviced between now and the end of time? In both cases, probably not.) When you or someone else flakes, take a cleansing breath and move on. Anger will waste your energy and make the condition worse.
3. Set up redundant systems to cope with flake-outs. At least my two alarm clocks got me out of bed today. If my appointment had been more pressing, I would have asked friends, family, and my virtual assistant to call and keep me on track. These multiple reminders are the only way I ever accomplish tasks I don't inherently enjoy. Set some up during a focused moment. You'll be awfully glad you did when the flakies set in.
4. Make use of short bursts of attention. You can't force focus for extended periods, so don't even try. If you've got an unpleasant, time-consuming task to tackle, take very small steps toward completing it interspersed with "flake breaks" that involve playing games, laughing, or moving around. This is what everyone's already doing, by the way. We might as well make it official.
5. Choose fun whenever possible. Spend time figuring out what feels fun to you and then do it. Help your boss, employees, spouse, children, dog, and tropical fish have fun, too. Consciously add fun to your daily activities—dance while you clean the house, listen to a comedy routine while you commute. The more fun you have, the more likely you are to figure out how, in today's wild new economy, you can make money doing what you love. Remember, fun is the new work.
And now a note for you focused monochrones: If you've never once flaked out in your life, you may be thinking, This is horse crap! These flakes just need to pull themselves together and behave reliably! Good luck with that. You might as well command my friendly neighborhood chipmunks to change your oil.
If, on the other hand, you're a natural-born, chipmunk-cuddling polychrone looking to get herself on track, managing your flakiness with understanding, tolerance, and positive reinforcement will eventually create the calm, enjoyable environment that finally helps you focus. Drop me a line telling me how it works for you. And please, if I forget to answer, don't take it personally.
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