by Karen Ball
I’ve always enjoyed photography. But it wasn’t until I came to understand the power of focus that I loved taking pictures. Focus helps you tell the story that you see in the picture. Whether your focus is on what’s close to the camera:
Or what’s in the background:
Or on the minute, microscopic details:
Each aspect gives us a different story in the same picture.
Our careers in publishing are like that, too. There’s so much involved in what we do—big picture, little picture, microscopic picture–and we need to understand it all. But here’s the thing, we don’t need to make every aspect the primary focus every day! Trying to do that too often leaves us befuddled and confused. For example, how many of your days have started like this:
I need to write. No…wait…
First I need to update my Facebook status. Oh, and tweet. Dang! I haven’t tweeted in hours! What was I thinking? I know, I’ll tweet about that women’s retreat I’m leading this weeken–
Oh shoot! I still have to contact my webmaster about updating my travel dates on my website so people can come hear me and meet me. Where is his number? I know it’s here somewhere…
Okay, I’ll just email him. [open email program] 400 emails?? How did I get 400 emails in the last three hours?? That’s not possible. Who are these people—
Oops. That one’s from my agent. Seriously? She wants me to send her the list of publishers I’m most interested in? I know she asked me for that two weeks ago, but who has—Oh, and she’s asking about my website and if I’ve updated the travel schedule. I need to contact my webmaster—
Oh, yeah. That’s what I was doing…but I still haven’t tweeted! Maybe I’ll tweet that I’m thinking about tweeting. Does that count?
Friends, if you’ve had days like this, you are not alone! Many of us struggle with trying to do it all, to write and market and strategize and on and on and on. But I’m coming to realize that, while I can do all these things, I can’t do them all at the same time.
Enter the beauty of focus.
As with the pictures above, when you consider your career, and your day-to-day tasks, you can focus on the big picture, or on close picture, or the micro picture. But what you can’t do is focus on them all at once. Focus just doesn’t work that way.
So over the next few weeks, we’ll be talking about the different kinds of focus and how you can put them to work for you, how they can be the tools that help you take your career, step-by-step, to the place you want it. Here are the kinds of focus we’ll consider:
Mountain Focus—this is where you stand on the mountaintop and look out over all you can see. The big picture focus, surveying from a distance and looking ahead to where you’re headed. With Mountain Focus, you see the overall picture, but you miss a lot of finer details
Valley Focus: In the valley you see what’s on ground level. What’s right in front of you. Yes, you can see the mountains all around you, but they’re hazy. Out there, you’re aware of them, but your reality in this focus is what’s in front of you.
Ground Focus: Some people might call this navel gazing. I prefer to call it the macro focus: looking at the small details, the minute issues I need to track, accomplish, consider. This is where people say they feel like they’re being nibbled to death by mice. (Ewww! Okay, bad example…) But you don’t have to feel that way! You can learn to use this focus in constructive, even exciting ways!
For today, though, here’s my question: which one of the different kinds of focus is easiest for you? And why?
So have at it!