What Stewart Lee Taught Me About Focussing

By Steve Nicholls

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A couple of months ago I went to see my favourite comedian Stewart Lee. I love the way he de-constructs comedy and expects a lot from his audience. “I hope you’ve all seen me before. I don’t like new people” would be a typical opening line for him.

During the show a fly (or it could have been a moth. We weren’t sitting close to the stage) started to circumnavigate the stage across various routes, and both Stewart and the audience could not ignore it’s presence (I Tweeted at the time “Stewart Lee upstaged by a fly”). He proceeded to use the fly’s presence to ad lib and enhance the set to great effect. Eventually the fly took its leave.

It struck me that his level of focus and adaptability were lessons that job seekers could learn from. How many times have you been determined to start the day strong, contact x number of new potential contacts, or apply for x number of roles that day, and the next thing you know you’re looking at an on-line shopping or other favourite website. Your “fly” has started to buzz around, distracting you from your intended plan.

What I suggest is:

  • Block off set times and stick to them
  • Track your calls / contacts/ call backs (The “Relationship” tab in LinkedIn, if available in your profile, is a good way of tracking conversations and setting reminders to follow up)
  • Don’t deviate
  • Only have the web pages open that relate to the tasks in hand

It’s important to build in rest periods also, but stay focussed during the time that you’ve set for yourself. If Stewart Lee didn’t let his distraction get to him while performing in front of a few hundred people, then I’m sure you can too. If you’d like me to try to answer any questions you might have about your own specific challenges in your job search, just email me.


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