I spent last weekend evaluating 179 program proposals submitted for our annual meeting next summer. We can only pick 63 of them, so we need to make wise choices, and that means reading each with care, assessing the topic, speakers, description, learning outcomes, level, time length, competency area, whether the topic was recently done, does the program overlap with others proposed, etc., etc., etc.
I’ve done this twice before, once as a member of the committee and last year as I shadowed last year’s chair, so I have experience in working through this whole thing. But it takes uninterrupted time, focus, concentration – and being In The Zone. I finally got there this weekend, as I made my second pass through.
The table was completely cleared of everything except my Big Notebook, lists of program rankings, final programs from the last 2 conferences, my pens and markers, and the laptop on the chair next to me for quick reference (doing “find” searches through the lists to make it easier to locate duplication). On, and No email, no surfing, no TV. My iTouch was hooked up to speakers, softly playing a mellow playlist on an endless loop, and the kitchen was nearby for water bottle replenishment.
Instead of feeling overwhelmed and scattered, I was focused and purposeful. I’d prepared by reading all of the proposals once already, dotting the pages with colorful post-its with notes and reminders. This time I could really concentrate and had a context in which to see them all.
I don’t get in this zone very often with work; things are too fragmented with information and questions coming from every direction at once. But when I can get into it, my mind is crystal clear and I’m extremely productive – and happy.
I need to find ways to build this into the office routine, especially with my friend’s retirement. I’ll have more to do than ever and it would be easy to just be fragmented. I need my space to be tidy, interruptions at a minimum, soft music to help block out outside sounds and help me concentrate, and enough time to accomplish the task at hand, or at least in whatever time I allot for it on a given day. Things to ponder.