It’s inevitable that at some point the game plan is going to get knocked off course. I sometimes find myself in an unexpected and unrecognizable position that I have no experience with yet. As Mike Tyson is famously quoted as saying “Everyone has a plan until they get hit.” Instead of trying to push through it and possibly making a big mistake that could costs me a job, or worse, knock me off course that could take months to correct or worse, even recognize, I’ve established what I call a reset position.
I actually had a reset position for snowboarding. I always wanted to push to the edge of my ability but often times that led to a dangerous situation, maybe it’s too steep and icy, too exposed or maybe I just got going too fast. I always had a reset position to check back into and gather my self. Check, reset, go and hit that speed again. Now I have a taste of what to expect so I perform much better.
It’s not something I did consciously and I’m only now recognizing what I was doing. Because dealing with building a business and managing the social media and information fire hose, I had to recognize what was happening. I was getting irritable, losing focus, not retaining what I was learning, and questioning everything I was doing.
But worst of all I was losing faith and belief in myself. That’s scared me. It took a little while to recognize why this was happening until something I heard recently on a Jocko Willink podcast.
He was talking about battle field strategies and what he taught his people to do when they found themselves in a unfamiliar situation. Basically what I took from it was that it’s impossible to train for everything so they train on what to do when they are in a situation they didn’t train for. That’s the reset position. You have to have a plan in place to fall back on when the unexpected happens.
Social media, phones, dings, pings and rings keep the mind on alert, sort of a fight of flight readiness. I don’t know what I’m talking about but I wonder if there is a real similarity to the fight or flight response when those dings start going off. The ding goes off and my body reacts, I feel it in my body, not just my mind. Something I think about.
In the book “Deep Work” by Cal Newport he writes that even if you choose to ignore it, your mind has still been distracted by the sound, you’re thinking “Who was that?” or “Wonder if it’s important?” and “What if it is important and I’m missing out on something?” Then it takes time and effort to get back to focus, physically too – what the mind thinks the body feels. Sometimes it could take several minutes or more to regain focus and the residue of the distraction to fade. But either way, your thoughts and flow have been interrupted and it takes mental energy to get it back.
If this happens a few times in the one or two hours you set aside to write, maybe your two hours gets whittled down to only one or less, of any real progress. Not worth it.
I’ve been experimenting with a mini reset position for this reason because it’s impossible to eliminate all distractions. For example, if one of my kids comes in while I’m writing and takes my attention away from my task I have to reset and regain my focus. What I do is not just try to jump back into what I was doing before the distraction. I’ll take a breath, and wait a few seconds for my mind to wind down from the excitement of my kids jumping on me. I’ll read a few lines of what I wrote leading up to the distraction and just ease back into it.
Another thing I’ve been trying is to stand up and walk to the other side of the room and try not to think about anything at all. That one is a little tough for me, but it does work when I do get it.
But the thing is with this, it’s a lot easier to reset after my kids come in than if I heard my phone ding. Because, with the phone, I don’t know what it is and my mind starts racing to all the possibilities and the fear of missing out on something important gets the better of me. And it often does get the better of me and I convince myself it won’t be that bad to check just this once. So I have to turn it off and put it away, out of sight.
Here’s the other thing, even if I was strong enough to resist, it does take mental effort to do it. And my brain gets fatigued just like my muscles do on a ride so I have pace myself and pick which hills to climb. And if I’m far away from home, I may pass on a particularly tough climb, just the same, if I have a long day ahead of me I don’t want to use my mental energy resisting the ding. Better to use the energy I have to accomplish the important stuff.
I’m starting to think that maybe it’s not so much time I need to manage but it’s my energy. being an entrepreneur I have to be brutally honest with myself and not let pride direct my actions, instead I must use humility as my guide. I wish I was that guy who can get by on four hours sleep every night. I have two friends who have this gift and I am envious. I even tried on several occasions to condition myself to be that way but after about a week I am a wreck. And it takes about a week, sometimes more, to get back on track.
All that extra time I got but staying up late is now back to where I was before I started. So I learned to just accept the fact I need 7 hours a night. I’ve become aware of my energy levels throughout the day. I know when the sun goes down, so do I.
There is also the bigger picture. I’ve noticed that all the information I am taking in over long periods of time, like weeks or months, has an effect on my ability to focus. And there is science to back this up too.
The brain registers constant stimulation as something unimportant. Think about that, our phones and computers are constantly alerting us to new posts, emails, phone calls, messages. It’s over load and unimportant at the same time.
I’ve been doing yoga every morning, meditating and riding my bike. Also, taking the weekends off and recognizing what is causing it. If you can name it you can tame it. I learned this and it is amazing how well it works to get the mind right again.
The last two weeks or so I’ve been feeling unsure of myself, a little anxious, like I’ve lost focus and direction. This requires a big reset position. How?
But here’s the thing, you can only do this in a quiet moment. You can’t keep doing the same things and expect a different result. Change the setting, get up and step away. Jocks Willink calls it detachment. It’s not as cold as it sounds, it just means to step back and get a broader view of the terrain. In this case it’s my mind set at this particular time. I need to get to the reset position, detach, re-asses and get back on track.
It also helps to have someone to check you. My mother was here visiting us for the past two weeks and she has no problem telling me to put the phone down. I’ve practiced humility enough now to listen her, no hesitation, because she is right.
Naming it to tame it has had profound effects on my journey. In the past I didn’t know about this and I got thrown off course never to get back. This time it’s not going to happen.
The reset position gets me back on track and moving forward again towards my goal. I keep experimenting and testing, but the one thing that is proving to be a constant is quiet time. I now schedule in an hour each day to think, quietly.