Former newspaper reporter, ground-breaking reporter, Nellie Bly is one of my heroes.
For those who don’t know the story, Nellie went undercover in an insane asylum by posing as a patient, and the article she wrote after her 10-day stay changed the way New York City treated people with mental illness.
Back then, you didn’t walk into the mental asylum. Nellie checked into a woman’s shelter under an assumed name and began her act. It didn’t take long before she was hauled off by police. Once inside, Nellie realized a quick trick:
From the moment I entered the insane ward on the island I made no attempt to keep up the assumed role of insanity. I talked and acted just as I do in ordinary life. Yet strange to say, the more sanely I talked and acted the crazier I was thought to be by all except one physician, whose kindness and gentle ways I shall not soon forget.
When you’re surrounded by insanity and chaos, be calm.
But what does this have to do with productivity? Everything.
First, it’s easy to get sucked into the frenetic minutia of a day. The phone is ringing, e-mails are flying into your inbox, meetings lurk all over your calendar, and your boss and co-workers are frenzied about something.
Secondly, practice and training help maintain your focus. Look at doctors and nurses in an ER who are trained to help you on your worst day. Captain Sullenberger who landed a plane in the Hudson River always said he didn’t feel panic because he and the co-pilot relied on their training.
How do you get your work done with all of the chaos swirling around you? How can you practice focus?
How to Stay Focused and Productive
- Give yourself 15 minutes. Set a timer on your phone and focus on one task. You will be surprised by what you can accomplish in 15 minute increments (or even just five minutes).
- Meditate. Mindfulness is getting more and more press these days since it helps build resilience and decrease stress. When I do this myself, I feel the benefits a lot more than the times I don’t do it. It has to become a regular habit. One Minute Meditation and Insight Timer are great apps to use for meditation.
- Know your priorities. So many things can suck up your time, leaving you feeling exhausted but not accomplished. Start each day knowing what two or three tasks you need to get done that day. Doing this will help you stay focused on what you really want to accomplish and put off the less important stuff.
- Learn to say no. This is easier to say than do at times. It’s important to speak up and say no to taking on another project. We all need to have boundaries. Practice it on the small stuff if this is hard for you.
Armed with these tools, you can be the calm beacon of productivity and steadfast focus in a world gone mad.