Are you an overly-focused person? how to get more than one thing done at a time

Are you in the “zone”?

Do you thrive when you’re hyper-focused, all else be damned?

Ever gotten so deep into something you missed everything else?

For better or worse, I, too, am an all-in, overly-focused personality.

On the upside, I’ve done things in my life. I built several businesses, I wrote two books on history, and when I was teaching I created an intense learning environment for my students. It not only takes serious focus, it requires extended focus, carrying it over long periods of time. On the down-side, I’ve missed a few things along the way.

Although I wouldn’t change a thing about it all, there are some important lessons for all of us about prioritizing and engaging procrastination, even if it’s a good trade of a bunch of small things for one really important big thing.

Procrastination Zones

The Overly Focused personality sees the flip sides of procrastination:

  1. You get the big things done;
  2. but, you end up missing other things because of it.

When you’re on a roll and that huge project is making its way to completion, you see it, you live and breath it: you’re in the zone. You brush off intrusions and interruptions, and you push forward, always.

It’s an inspiring moment, and fun, actually, because you’re all in.


Is it a Procrastination-free Zone?

Before learning more about Procrastination from Dr. Tim Pychyl, I defined procrastination as being “overly focused.”  The problem with my previous definition is that, as Dr. Pychyl teaches, procrastination is an emotional process, not rational, as I had assumed.

So even as we might choose – rationally – to stay focused on one big thing, we are still emotionally avoiding the little things that might harm us in the future. We use the “big thing” as the excuse not to do the little things.

Yes, there’s a certain rationality to it all, and even to procrastination itself, but at its heart, it truly is an emotional choice. When you’re reaching for the zone, you don’t want to break it to deal with less important but still important little things. To stop what we’re doing makes us feel bad, and to take on those little annoying things does, too.

We still have to get them all done.

Massive v. Daily Accomplishment

Look at your day: even amidst a huge project, you still eat, sleep (a little), and do other things. If you fit the little things into those normal day-to-day routines and necessities, you’ll find them getting done, too — and before they pile up in to a whole other BIG THING by themselves.

The overly-focused can get to those little things without sacrificing the big project. It actually helps, because stepping outside the Zone is beneficial: step back, look around, what’d you miss, what else could you do? You’ll see the big project in another light, too. It’s like an essay draft: the more you stop, look at it on your screen, print it out and sit somewhere else, the more each look develops a greater sense for audience, and your essay is better.

Yes, you Overly Focused procrastinators, don’t lose your will for BIG work and a BIG push. Just try to moderate it a little, give it a quick rest and make sure you’re not harming yourself or someone around you by not paying attention except to that ONE things.

Stay focused, but not overly so!

– Michael