Figuring out how to switch gears has kept me energized; getting outside to surf has helped me focus.

By Alex Yewdell

Lately, it has been pretty easy for me to stay energized but where I have struggled is maintaining focus. In a normal year, the early weeks of spring are a breeze. We are primed and ready for conference season to begin. All of the hard work is done, everything is planned and all that is left to do is to steer the ship and right the course with the occasional onsite troubleshoot. But this year, things are much different. Because the pandemic has required our clients to transition to virtual meetings, my schedule has been more packed than normal. More than finding the energy—my stuffed inbox and daily list of scheduled calls keep me going—I’ve had to work to find focus. Getting back to the water to surf (safely) has helped me cut through the mental clutter and remain cognizant of the bigger picture.

Busy-ness As A Source Of Energy

This year has been anything but smooth sailing. Think hurricane, category 5—we’ve needed to find an entirely new direction. And that’s just what we did. With in-person meetings no longer a realistic option for this year, we’ve had to work with clients to get creative. In the past few months, we’ve been diving in and learning a whole new realm of information—teaching ourselves and our largest clients how to host conferences online. Surprisingly, this project has been a fun and needed distraction! It’s new and challenging but it’s rewarding.

I have quickly learned that the virtual conference offerings are substantial and will definitely be something that remains a vital part of all future conferences (though that is a subject for another blog post!). However, switching to a virtual conference with only months to plan is a lot of work. This is in large part how I’ve stayed energized. My to-do list is never short of action items and my daily calendar is now filled with demo calls and presentations. But with all that there is to do, it has been hard to maintain focus on a singular objective. One item is always topping the next in terms of urgency.

Finding Focus With A Pandemic In The Background

Managing multiple tasks and projects on a tight timeline is normal when you have a packed schedule. But what is not normal is having this ever-changing and growing to-do list during a pandemic. While it might seem that focus should be easier right now because most of us have less to distract them, it’s actually been quite the opposite, at least for me. Since I’ve had more time to focus on work, it has been easy to become overwhelmed by the tasks at hand. I’ve had trouble taking a step back to see the big picture.

Lately, I’ve found that my free time outside of work hours is when I am doing much of my best and clearest thinking, organizing and planning. Maybe the sailing metaphor at the beginning of this post tipped my hand but I am finding I do my best thinking when I am being active and, quite honestly, on the water. I’ve been able to clear my mind when I surf. Everyone is different but I am sure I am not alone; with stay at home orders nationwide many of our favorite pastimes and hobbies that we use to clear our heads are not available. I went six weeks or so with the beaches closed here in San Diego, and during that time I struggled the most with focusing. Fortunately, the end of April saw our local beaches open back up and my favorite way to clear my head was an available resource again.

Personally, I did not realize what I was missing until I got it back. While something felt off, I could not put my finger on the root cause. But now it makes complete sense—it is as they say, “hindsight is always twenty-twenty.”

For many people, the activity of choice is working out: going to the gym or taking part in group classes at their favorite workout studio. Unfortunately, these venues will likely not be available for several more weeks. In the meantime, I recommend finding something new or comparable to your workouts (or whatever it is if you can’t do it right now) that clears your head. Maybe it’s long walks through your city or neighborhoods, urban hiking if you will. Find something that lets you clear your head and come back to work the next day fresh and ready to conquer that to-do list. You’ll feel more focused by giving yourself the space to take a break and think about work and life a little more casually and freely.

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