As the late great Tom Petty used to sing, the waiting is the hardest part.
Waiting is an important part of difficulty in finding focus. If we are in the middle of something and then suddenly have to wait, we may wish to start something else, often in the name of efficiency. Or we may have a sense of lost momentum we hope to avoid. Or we may seek stimulation, trying to avoid an intolerable boredom.
Sometimes waiting for something to finish is useful. For example, if I decide to continue sitting there while uploading a file, I may have other ideas about the current project come to mind. Were I to have turned away, I may not have had those ideas.
But turning away may be fine at times, too. For example, I’m not going to sit there if the upload process is going to be an hour long.
It would appear that it is time that would be the decisive factor, but this is not truly the case. We can see the same decision play out at the micro level, too. For example, in performance events such as a sport, deciding to pass a ball now or in a half second from now can each be viable options. Either could have a crucial impact on the game.
The issue is more that we need to consider the impact when ending something. We need to have a sense of what will happen when we drop, close, or move away from our current focus:
- Will it be there when and where we want it to be?
- Is it ok to simply drop?
- Will it take care of itself?
- Will it be in the way of other things?
We can call the process bookmarking, saving, among other options. It is about taking care when we close a session.
These occur at macro or micro levels.
As an example at the macro level, if I suddenly need to wait for someone or something else to continue a project, I may wish to start another in the meantime. Simply dropping the current project would be problematic. But this is a common occurrence. Instead, we need to consider the return.
In OmniFocus, I can:
- Set the project on hold (context menu)
- Consider the review frequency
- Possibly write a Consider task to revisit it after a period of time.
At a more micro level, I may have to wait while something loads. Jumping to some next thing can easily lead to another jump and then another.
It is useful in such conditions to use the Inbox liberally. So long as I have a regular habit of clearing the Inbox, the Inbox can be an excellent tool for bookmarking. I can:
- Write whatever tasks I would like to continue.
For example, “check on files after upload.” While the task itself is not a well written task, it does not need to be. It is in the Inbox where it can later be processed. When I do finish what I’ve moved on to, I can return to the Inbox and process it. If the file check could take less than 2 minutes, I can do it. If not, I can expand and adjust the task as would be useful.
At an even more micro level, the performance state, we can no longer use an external tool such as OmniFocus. In such states, I find practice of the work and, perhaps, a practice of meditation to be most helpful. For example, if I am performing a piece of music and I think it would be useful to return to a previous passage, I may consider:
- Do I remember how the previous passage went?
- When would I transition there?
- What effect might it have?
And yet all of these questions are hardly questions. They are more an amalgam of feelings that imbue the moment while also leading the current flow of play. In this sense, waiting is no longer “hard” so much as it is a part of the work itself.