Coaching concepts for professionals can come from anywhere and for me, such ideas are frequent inspired by articles or tidbits I read in publications like the Harvard Business Review.  For example, in the side bar of a page of a recent edition I found a small article on the importance of sleep to our focus and productivity.

“For every hour that sleep was interrupted the previous night, research participants monitored during a 42-minute task spent an additional 8.4 minutes cyber loafing – checking personal email or visiting unrelated websites – according to a team led by David T. Wagner, of Singapore Management University. The fact that sleep-deprived people are more apt to give in to cyber loafing temptation can also be seen on the first Monday after the switch to daylight saving time, when Google users search for 3.1% to 6.4% more entertainment-related websites than on any other Mondays, the researchers say”.

Before I work with a client on their career or marketing plans, we first work together on their personal plan.  This ensures that they assess and allocated time, energy and emotional space for the important elements of their lives outside of work, such as family and friend time, health and fitness time, and personal downtime.  By looking after these important and foundational aspects of their life first, they build a strong foundation on which they can more safely build a career, knowing that their subsequent dedication to the implementation of that plan won’t be at the sacrifice of the rest of their life.  And this, in turn, allows them to be far more focused on work when they are there.

But this ability to focus at work can never be taken for granted.  It must be nurtured and monitored.  Ultimately, my clients aim to spend that time in concentrated efficiency – living that time consciously and with purpose to every minute.   Indeed, we seek to live every moment of our lives in this way – work time and home time – to get the most out of life.

As we move toward a more conscious existence, it helps to develop a system for constant evaluations and this is particularly true for our work lives.  And one of the best evaluation systems I’ve found is to be mindful of those personal alarms that go off when we know something is not right.  For example, if you find it is difficult for you to focus when you are at work – you’re restless, or you do not understand something that is going on, or it feels like you are trying several different solutions and nothing is working – this may be an indicator that something in your life is off kilter.  It could be as simple as a lack of sleep but it could also be lack of commitment because something else in your life is getting sacrificed; it could be lack of enthusiasm for the project you are on because of an unmet need; or it could be as simple as under-productivity because you are run down in some way.

I frequently coach lawyers who plan (and bill out) their day in six-minute segments.  Like so many of us, they are under tremendous pressure to make each part of their day count.  So when they become distracted, it can have a profound effect on their time requirements.  For example, if they were distracted enough to lack focus for three 12-minute sections in a day and instead, spent that time searching the internet or responding to personal email or otherwise doing things that had no direct benefit to their daily plan, that distraction would amount to three weeks of billable hours per year.  That’s a significant loss in productivity!

I don’t mean to suggest that we shouldn’t take breaks throughout the day to recharge our batteries and refocus our energies – we absolutely should.  I simply wish to point out how easy it can be to get off-track, and how important it is to do whatever we can in the rest of our lives to keep ourselves focussed on whatever we are doing this day, at this time, in this moment.

It’s so easy to be distracted.  Even an equinox can pull us a bit off-course.  But if we chose to live meaningfully and consciously as much as possible, you may be amazed at how effective you can be in all aspects of your life.