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Compiled and edited by Julie Tereshchuk

 ask a mentor how to focus

Dear Mentors,

I’m having a hard time focusing at work these days—I can’t even make up my mind about looking for a new job! I thought it would be easier to work from home with the kids back at school, but they’re on a hybrid schedule so I’ve got even less of a routine than when we were all home over the summer. Any tips would be much appreciated.

Yours,

Mentee

 

Dear Mentee,

It sounds like you need to create a routine. You might want to consider breaking life up into pieces and intentionally planning for each piece, perhaps scheduling on a weekly basis:

  1. Professional:
    • What do you need to achieve each week for your job and when are the most suitable days and times to do them?
    • Why do you want to look for a new job?
    • Make time once a week for professional development webinar or happy hour with WCA or another group.
  2. Family:
    • When are the kids at school and when will they be at home? Do they have homework? If so, can they work on it alone or do they need assistance from you?
    • Are you preparing meals every day? If so, perhaps plan a take out or eat out (safely) once a week so you have something to look forward to.
  3. Other interests:
    • What do you enjoy doing outside of work and family? Reading, writing, sport, playing the ukulele, visiting with friends and/or family, or whatever? Schedule at least one time a week and make it happen.

The key is that you need to recognize that unless you make an intentional decision to re-motivate yourself, you will continue to flounder in this indecisive, unsatisfying place.

Yours,

Jane Baxter Lynn

 

Dear Mentee,

I’ve written a couple of articles about this—they were both originally published on Harvard Business Review.

Is it Even Possible to Focus on Anything Right Now? and How to be Productive Working From Home

Yours,

Maura Thomas

 

Dear Mentee,

I could have written this letter, so I’m not sure how qualified I am to respond, but I’ve been finding lots of mental clarity in a new mindfulness practice.

As a restless, goal-oriented extrovert, meditation has always been something I planned to try “someday” but never made time for.

This moment in time has me feeling listless and burned out, so when a like-minded friend recommended the Waking Up app I jumped in. In between the quiet pauses, the guide talks about the science of meditation and different techniques, so it feels less “woo woo” and more grounded (and less boring!) than some others I’ve tried.

I also love the Balance app, and their new (free!) immersive meditations. The vibrations from your phone align with the sounds and it’s a great way to keep your focus. The Immersive Bells meditation is supposed to halt your body’s fight-or-flight response. I listen to 5-10 minutes first thing in the morning and it’s really helping me stay present and not obsess over things outside my control.

Hope that helps!

Yours,

Jenny Magic

 

Dear Mentee,

There are techniques you can use to focus, and these are important survival techniques. At least one WCA member is an expert in the area, and I’d strongly advise tapping her wisdom. But I believe there is also something else to consider, particularly this year as we move through a pandemic and a degree of social and political unrest we have not experienced in our lifetimes.

And that is: Know your limits. Kids, family, friends, job, finances, school, health. It’s overwhelming.  But because we’re women, and people depend on us, we believe we can push through it, discounting the toll it takes on our physical and mental health.  This weekend, I did a systems check after trying to juggle a job, a demanding course in project management, and a fascinating pro bono project. Physically and mentally exhausted, I decided to drop the pro bono project.

These can be hard calls, but my advice is to avoid overload. Cut back. Let yourself breathe a little easier. Figure out what you can do to simplify, if at all possible.  As the poet Phillip Booth says, “When you tire on the long thrash to your island, lie, and survive.”

Words to remember for 2020.

Yours,

Raye Elizabeth Ward