We own a number of rental properties, and almost always have at least one major rehab going. So you would think by now I would be good at resource planning.

But at least once a day, I realize a tool I need is somewhere else. Door jamb cutter? Somewhere else. Pex press tool? At another site. Thinset mix still in the garage instead of& in the truck? That was Wednesday.

Lack of intelligence isn't the problem (OK, maybe). And I do try to plan ahead. So why do I struggle?

Research shows the average person's mind -- and I'm decidedly average -- spends about 50 percent of its time "wandering." Thinking about the past. Trying to predict the future. Drifting from distraction to distraction.

That's normal. What psychologists call "attention cycling" not only helps keep us safe -- get too hyper-focused on a call and you might not notice a stop sign -- but also helps us learn from the past and make plans for the future.

Yet when your attention cycles so quickly, you enter a state the cognitive neuroscientist Amishi Jha calls "hazy autopilot mode." You aren't really paying attention to anything. Your thoughts drift from task to task, from distraction to distraction, from the future to the past....

And you leave the thinset mix in the garage.

"Mindfulness"? Ugh.

The solution is to be more mindful.

Unfortunately, I'm not a fan of "mindfulness." Sounds a little too psychology frou-frou. A little too new-agey. A little too...something. (Which says more about me -- and not in a good way -- than it does about the value of mindfulness.)

What I need to do, when I've finished writing for the day and am heading out to work on a house, is take a beat and focus.

That's where Jha's book, Peak Mind: Find Your Focus, Own Your Attention, Invest 12 Minutes a Day, provides an answer. Jha recommends using the STOP method, triggered by normal daily cues, to remind yourself to be mindful of the present. 

For example, say you have to stop at a red light.

  • S: Stopped physically? Mentally stop and...
  • T: Take a breath. Then...
  • O: Observe. Focus on what's happening around you, and more importantly, inside you. What you're thinking about. What you want to think about. In other words, reset. Then... 
  • P: Proceed, and get on with your day.

That's great for broader mindfulness. It never hurts to tell yourself to take a breath and slow down.

Research agrees. Improved mindfulness can improves resiliencehelp reduce stress and anxiety, and improve memory and decision-making skills.

Even so, I needed something more specific, so my cues are more tactical.

When I'm about to open the door of the truck, I pause and take about 10 seconds. I think about what I'm planning to do. I think about which tools and supplies I need. I do a quick mental inventory.

I do the same thing when I buy supplies. Instead of grabbing the last item and automatically rushing to check out, I stop and pause for at least 10 seconds. I review my list. I think through what I'll do for the next few days. I imagine what I need, and what I might need. 

I try to push aside all the distractions and -- while it sounds kinda meta -- think about thinking about resource planning. I remind myself that the point isn't to rush through my mental review and mentally scurry to whatever is next. The point is to focus and think and do that one thing as well as I possibly can.

Granted, that hasn't made me the Elon Musk of resource planning. Nothing beats taking notes on the spot and creating checklists. (To paraphrase Getting Things Done author David Allen, your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.)

But taking a few moments to pause and think and focus has made a big difference.

And it could for you too. Maybe, before you pick up the phone to follow up with a prospect, you'll decide to pause and think about what they need...and not just how desperately you need to make a sale. Maybe you'll decide to pause in your car before you head into work to think about the kind of leader you want to be. Maybe you'll decide to pause at the door to your house to think about the kind of person you want to be with your loved ones.

Pick a few everyday cues and use them to spark a few moments of focus on what really matters.

Sure, it might feel like you're wasting precious time in an already busy day -- but you'll more than get that time back in improved effectiveness and efficiency.

Who knows: Maybe someday you'll even be able to quit saying your own version of, "I swear, every time I need a tool...it's at the wrong house."

Wouldn't that be great.