The Joy of Focusing on One Thing

Last week I went to Pennsylvania to attend a Family Medicine Review Course. I got 51 hours of Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits in six days.

I wasn’t really looking forward to the week, although I wanted (and needed) the credits, so I was surprised at how much I enjoyed myself. The lectures were fascinating and the speakers were, for the most part, dynamic and easy to listen to. I was your typical geek, sitting down front and taking notes right on my iPad (I downloaded all the slides from all the lectures before I left home.)

I have a passion for family medicine and to be able to devote a whole week to that one discipline—what’s new, best practices, and emerging research—was wonderful.

In the middle of the week, I sat in the front row of a workshop and the woman next to me, who I assumed was very interested in the topic being presented as she, too, sat in the front row, was on her computer working on patient charts the entire duration of the two-hour workshop.

I thought how time pressured she must be feeling to be working on her charts throughout the lecture rather than paying attention, which I was sure she wanted to do.

That’s when I realized what a luxury it was to sit in the lecture hall and focus exclusively on one thing. I didn’t have to worry about child care; I didn’t have unfinished charts that needed my attention; I wasn’t watching the time to make sure I wasn’t late for whatever came next. Because I was five states away from home for the week, I had made arrangements ahead of time and cleared my schedule entirely.

I was there to learn, and I did! I was focused, I was attentive, and I soaked it all in.

On the drive home, I reflected on my week and the experience of, for lack of a better phrase, not multitasking. I’ve never been one who liked to multitask, as I know it’s actually an inefficient way to work, but of course I do it. For example, I wrote the first draft of this post sitting in my car in the car pool line, waiting to pick up my son.

Having the chance to focus on one thing for a whole week made me want to find more times in my life when I am not multitasking.

Fortunately, I’m hosting a writing retreat on Saturday, October 17, 2015, (for more information on that, please click here,) and I get to participate in the writing retreat, as well as host it—so yes, I’ll be doing a little bit of multitasking there.

Beyond Saturday, I’ve committed to a four-hour block of writing time at least once a week. That means no Internet, no laundry, no phone calls—just writing.

While I can multitask, and I’ve gotten good at writing in short spaces of time, I’ve decided I want the luxury of a significant block of writing time. Not just because I can get a lot done, but also because I enjoy that feeling of focus and passion that arises whenever I give myself the gift of uninterrupted time to think about and do the things I’m most passionate about.

How about you? Do you have/want/long for uninterrupted time to pursue your passions?


For locals, I’m hosting a writing retreat in Nashua on Saturday, October 17th (the day after tomorrow!) and I still have a few opening left. I’d love to have you join us if you are ready to spend some uninterrupted time with your journal or your WIP in the company of other writers. For more information and to register, please click here.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, life coach, and family physician. So far, I’m loving being the mother of a school-age child. He’s happy to go to school and I’m happy to do other things until we meet again in the afternoon. I’m a grateful woman, writer, and life coach these days!



23 thoughts on “The Joy of Focusing on One Thing

  1. I think it’s a great idea. We have so many distractions in our world and we almost never choose to focus on just one thing. Yet I feel we do our best work when we are focused. I’d love for you to post about this again and tell us how it went-was it easy or hard, did you get more writing done or panic, that sort of thing. Good luck!

    • Hey thewritertracy,
      Thanks for your comments and for reading the blog. I can tell you that I had an hour and a half this morning before an appointment and I made a conscious decision to work on my writing rather than do all the tasks that were calling to me when I came back into the house after taking my son to school. I sat down at my desk and wrote two first drafts of blog posts and then I actually wrote a page of fiction!

      Just being more mindful of focusing on one thing has been helpful. I’ll definitely keep you posted as to how it goes.

      Happy writing!


  2. Resonates with me hugely Diane! I mentioned you in a past blog post too (not sure of date but would love you to comment!) so I’m with you on all fronts! Would love to attend one of your retreats some day but living in Cape Town makes it tricky ! #oneday!

    • Hey dominique,
      Thanks so much for your kind comments. I hope you can attend one of my retreats in the future. I plan to do more, and plan to do some in exotic (to me!) places, like Cape Town! That’s a few years down the road, but you never know what’s going to happen!

      I’m behind on my responses to comments on the blog, but I’m working my way back. I’ll get there!

      Happy writing!


    • Hi Yashi Tripathi,
      Good for you! Sounds like you have a system that works. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Happy writing!


  3. Hey, wait till you get retired, or “retarded”, as my non pc friend used to say. Interestingly enough, even though I’m out of the wage earning life, I find myself–on occasion–too busy to get important things done, such as writing and reading. Having those long blocks of uninterrupted time in this hectic world of ours is indeed a luxury. Great post and timely! I came very close to grabbing a plane ticket from Alabama to get to your retreat. I mean it. BUT family issues intervened. I think I’ll definitely get up there next year! It sounds great.

    • Hey Paula,
      Thanks for your comments and for reading. And I’d love to have you at the retreat one of these days. I did it at a hotel just so people could stay over. I’m thinking about doing it for a whole weekend next year.

      That said, I’ve emailed a few people to make sure they knew the retreat was in NH, because their addresses were so far away. They knew. 🙂

      Enjoy retirement and happy writing!


      • I think the “weekend” idea is really good. It could give folks a chance to sit about in comfy chairs and have one of those (or more than one) wonderful evening time chats. And the idea that I’m in New Hampshire makes it even better. Thank you!

      • Hi Paul,
        Thanks for the feedback, I really appreciate it! And sorry for getting your name wrong!


  4. This is great! I have a problem with focusing on one thing at a time. I have noticed that I have a lot of projects that are incomplete because I start on one thing and get distracted by another. This is a great reminder to focus on one task until I have completed the task I originally set out to do. Thank you.

    • Hi sheppaja,
      Thanks for reading and for commenting. There are so many distractions, it’s good to remember to do one thing at a time. I’ve only been home a week, but I’ve really been trying to focus on one thing at a time and, while I’m not as on top of the laundry as I usually am, I’ve gotten more writing done this week than I usually do (and it’s only Thursday!)

      Happy writing (and task completing!)


  5. I agree completely! It’s great that there is something out there that you love to dedicate your time to. I’m still working on finding that thing. This was nice to read and I plan to keep your points in mind in my daily life. Thanks 🙂

    • HI ensoleilller,
      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for your comments and thanks for reading! As far as finding your “thing,” I say, follow the hot tracks. By that I mean just do the things you enjoy doing and try to notice how much you enjoy them and what specifically you enjoy about each thing. It’ll come.

      Happy writing!


  6. Following your heart and leaving everything else behind – Your post reminds me of just that. Of how important it is to focus on that one thing which we love doing. If we could just do the same, and forget about our over ambitious to-do lists , life would be a more joyful ride 🙂

    • Hi saniabudhraja,
      Thanks for your comments and for reading the post. I agree, I haven’t regretted focusing on the important things at all this week or last. I just have to remember to keep it up, without letting things on the home front completely descend into chaos!

      Happy writing!


    • Hey Deborah,
      Thank you! Yes, I agree. I’d gotten away from it in the busyness of life, but I’m much more focused now. Phew. I’m sure it’ll come around again, but I’m going to try to keep to the single-tasking! (Much better word than “not multitasking.”)


  7. Hi Diane!

    Thanks for the post. I can relate in many ways, as a father of two young strapping lads 4 and 6 years old. Having to take continuing education units for several hours on end. And yes, I can multitask, but I utterly despise it. Doves can only focus on one thing at a time. I do long for times of concentration for writing without interruption. That would be paradise. Trust me. I wish I lived near nashua to attend the seminar but I dwell in a far away land called, Ohio.

    Thanks for the post and enjoy your time writing and coaching!


    • Hi Benjamin,
      When my son was younger, I’d wish for time to write, but then I’d realize that day is coming, and I’d turn my focus back to my child. I know one day I’ll have lots of time to write, when family obligations are no longer so insistent, but I also know I’ll miss that time with family so I try to do what I can and stay present as much as possible.

      I’ve been to your far away land! It’s lovely!

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Hope you get at least a few minutes of uninterrupted time in the near future to not multitask!


  8. Pingback: The D-I-Y Writing Residency | Live to Write – Write to Live

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