The other day, I was walking out of the elevator lobby of my office building and looked outside the front doors. I stood for a few moments to look at the streaming white and yellow light from the sun pouring through the entrance to the building. The sky was blue that day, and was mercifully clear of the depressing blanket of gray haze that has too often blocked the sky.

And in that brief moment I reflected on what I was witnessing: This invisible, intangible, but very real energy is endowing all of us with the gift of life and animating and powering every living being, not just in this office lobby in this building and in this city, but on half the entire earth. This ethereal power source that is responsible for all human, animal, and plant life on earth, is transmitted through billions of miles of dark cold empty space by a single ball of gas we call the Sun.

In that moment, I gained a stronger appreciation for the rare and fragile gift of life. And, I thought, how can I discover --and rediscover --these small moments of wonder in my life and work?

We go to work everyday following a routine path and pattern of actions and thoughts. At work, we might face similar problems and do similar work. But as much as it may seem to be the same, each new day is different, and each new day presents a new set of options and decisions that, once taken, could alter the course of your day, week, month-- and even the rest of your career.

My take-away from this experience is a very simple exercise that can be useful for anyone trying to stay focused and be more productive.

In the middle of a busy day, when you're focused on checking off the items on your to-do list and overwhelmed with emails and conference calls, take a few moments or a even small chunk of time to just pause and reflect on what you are doing and where you want to be heading. Think about the subtler things that you might normally overlook or take for granted, but which have a big impact on your work. 

For example, if you're struggling to get senior management attention for an important project you want to pursue, think about what is top of mind for them, and how your project can help them achieve their goals.

Or, if you're finding yourself overwhelmed with work and unable to meet your deadlines, try to identify the one or two things that are getting in your way of focusing on the higher value added activities that you need to focus on to reach your goals. Then try to delegate it to someone else if you can, find an external resource to help you, or try to eliminate the activity altogether from your to-do list.

Very often, too, the forces that have the greatest impact on your work are invisible and intangible. Like the rays of energy that are transmitted from the Sun to the earth across billions of miles of cold empty space, there are usually invisible forces that are impacting how you work. These could be the relationships you have with your coworkers, with your clients, or with your customers. Or it could be the processes and and policies that set the boundaries for what we can and cannot get accomplished.

Who is the person who can help you accomplish your goals, and what do you need to do to engage with them more effectively so they support you? What process or policy do you need to understand better so you can know how to apply it more effectively to your work?

Published on: Jan 31, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.