The Difference Between Focus and Tunnel Vision
‘One more click, save the file and then close it.’ This is what I thought and did. Or so I thought. Because, did I really? A few moments later my computer gave me the error message, “file upload not possible”. Oops. What happened?
The last two hours my team and I were working on a project plan for the next six weeks. It was a really creative and productive meeting. Spirits were high. Not only could we reflect on our past accomplishments of the last three weeks. We also had a clear picture of what we wanted to achieve the next couple of weeks. In order to save time, we captured all planned work packages in an Excel file on a big screen for everyone to follow. Once our session was finished I did some minor cosmetic changes to the file, saved it (or thought I did) and then closed it. But, things did not go as planned. – Soon I found out that not only was the file not uploaded to our server, but it was nowhere to be found on my local computer. If you ever worked on a file for a long time and then had to find out that the work of the past hour or so was erased, well, let’s put it this way: it does not make you happy. So, this is where I was yesterday. When I realized the dilemma I called our local IT support and asked for help. Gee, I had no idea how these folks can be so calm and patient in moments like these. They listened, asked some questions, guided me through some procedures on my computer. And then – nothing. The file could not be found. Sh…t. Furor and frustration grew in me rapidly. ‘How was this possible?! I saved the file before I closed it.’ The next 2 hours I continued sorting through all the files I touched yesterday. Time stood still. The more I searched the more my frustration vanished. And was replaced by resignation.
What does this story have to do with ‘focus’? A lot. In the moment of ‘crises’, if you want to call the described dilemma, I completely concentrated on this one file, the product of two hours of work. I tried everything technically possible to retrieve it. And I lost time for other, more productive and creative things. When it became clear that the file was lost, I should have stopped looking for it. This is hard at times, very difficult indeed. Facing the unquestionable truth often is. And yet, it may be the only thing to do.
What I mixed was ‘focus’ and ‘tunnel vision’.
The only thing I could think of was this one file, the energy it absorbed to create it and the frustration I felt when I was afraid that I lost this piece of work. I did not look left or right. As a result, I did not only lose the file I also relinquished valuable time for other things. The 2-3 hours I spent searching for the file could have been used to re-do the work. As a matter of fact it would have taken me probably only around 45 to 60 minutes. I may not have been happy about this extra work. But possibly even improving it. And I could have done something else afterwards. Learn from my technical incapabilities and move on.
Learning to focus
Too often when we focus on something we completely phase out our surroundings. Losing sight of the bigger picture. We are trapped in our tunnel vision. We think we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. But actually it may only be a remnant of our imagination. When you want to or need to focus, do so with a peripheral vision. Relax, breathe, become aware of what’s happening around you, then start your work. But not without closing your eyes, ears and senses for your surroundings. Be present and focused at the same time. It is not a contradiction; it is a help and path to a fuller awareness, concentration, more productive and meaningful work and happiness.
So, what happened with my lost file? I never found it again. Luckily I had a printout of the table my team and I were working on. Retyping the file we actually found a number of mistakes, shortcomings and gaps we did not recognize earlier. We corrected them in no time and after less than an hour we had a new, corrected and actually better project plan.