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Intellectual Persistence? Let’s Model It!

Yesterday, I completed a whopping one page in my newest book project (more on that later). Today I wrote an entire chapter. Same amount of time, different results. What happened?

Well for one thing, I wasn’t preoccupied with national elections. More importantly, though, I made myself plan for being as engaged and productive as I knew how to be. For writing, that means removing myself from the temptation of organizing my office or doing laundry (far more attractive than deep thought on a complex issue!), getting a good dose of exercise, and enhancing my environment with motivating music or other sensory touches.

Today, I worked at a coffee shop, although other days I simply move to the dining room from my home office. AND I turned off the wireless connection on my computer as I wrote each chapter section.

I happened to read Bill Ferriter @plugusin’s blog this morning, How Gritty Are Today’s Learners, in which he points out that while teachers complain that students have short attention spans, we adults aren’t doing any better. He’s right. I certainly demonstrated it yesterday!

But I think we can take a hard look at two causes–and take steps toward modeling what we want to see in students.

  • I wonder, is it really humanly possible to carry out all the demands being placed on people in your workplace right now? I am in so many schools where competing initiatives means that none are being carried out well. RTI, IB, CCSS, PLC…what combination of acronyms are interfering with sustained attention where you are?
  • For another, are you setting yourself up for interruptions? Yesterday highlighted for me how often I let social media interfere with my own productivity, even though I am far from addicted to emails, Facebook and Twitter (unless I’m following multiple election threads…).
    • Tony Schwartz at The Energy Project points out how we work best in uninterrupted stretches of 45 minutes or more. He recommends a message on your phone, email, etc. that you’ll get back—and then turning those devices off, as I did today. Incidentally, you can take his “energy quiz” for free at that site and gain insights into how well you’re handling your energy for work and personal life.
    • Think through ways to avoid frequent temptations by, for example, checking email at reasonable intervals. Today, I ignored emails until I’d finished writing entire chapter sections. My concentration level skyrocketed.
    • Figure out why you need distraction. Yesterday, I’d tried writing too soon. I didn’t have a clear idea of what I was trying to say. That’s a sure-fire path to distraction. Get in touch with why you feel the need to keep your phone on or allow pings from Facebook. Then, strategize to decrease that need.

These are huge issues, I know, but if we improve our own concentrated effort, we’ll be in a better position to help our students!

  • What strategies work for you for maintaining intellectual persistence? Share them with the rest of us, please!
  • Is there any talk of whether you workplace’s goals are doable? What’s being said?

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Jane Kise is a consultant and executive coach. The founder of Differentiated Coaching Associates and author of over 20 books, she works with schools and businesses worldwide to help create environments where everyone can flourish.

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