Chop Wood, Carry Water

Or, just Do The Work.

Buddhists will often use the phrase “Chop Wood, Carry Water” – which means that all you need to do is focus on what is happening right now. To be in the moment. This includes every single mundane task. Monks would focus on just what they were doing – often chopping wood for the fire and carrying water for the monastery. In no uncertain terms, this is Zen. Just that.

So it is with our work and the day of a salesperson. Just be with what you’re doing and give your full self, even those mundane tasks – updating a client database, inputting an order, drafting an email, tracking activity in a CRM system. Try to give your focus to just that thing.

While this is easy to say, it is incredibly hard to do…particularly in a world where attention spans are short and decreasing, where multitasking is encouraged and even celebrated and where we’re expected to do so much more in less time.

One technique that has helped me to just “Chop Wood, Carry Water” is taking a half-hour to an hour each day and shutting off email. Literally turning it off. It’s a bit like going through withdrawal at first but, trust me, you will survive it. Do this once per day and focus on your most important task during that time. This might be a proposal you need to get written, a deck you need to build or a call you need to make.

Whatever the task, don’t let anything distract you…and there’s little that’s more distracting than the ping of a new email. Our pavlovian response to that notification is well documented – check out this link or just Google “multitasking makes you stupid”. Ideally, shut down your texts and IM as well – go into Airplane Mode.

Once you do, try not to think about it. It’ll be hard but will get easier (trust me!). After a while, you’ll do a better job of focus and your work will be better. See, you’re practically a Zen monk already!

One thought on “Chop Wood, Carry Water

  1. Pingback: Plan Ahead In the Moment | Selling Water By The River

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