Focus like a Cougar to Finish Your Book

Writing a book is an in­tense, chal­len­ging and re­ward­ing pro­cess. But if you’re work­ing on a big pro­ject and the dead­line is loom­ing, the in­tense and chal­len­ging as­pect can be overwhelming.

That’s how I felt last fall as I struggled to fin­ish The Cougar: Beautiful, Wild and Dangerous. I had so much fas­cin­at­ing in­form­a­tion! How could I pos­sibly con­dense it into suit­able ma­nu­script length by March 31?

Then I read an art­icle about ac­com­plish­ing goals in the Mayo Clinic news­let­ter. The three main points were:

1. Clarity of fo­cus. The best nev­er lose sight of the goal. The event is circled on the cal­en­dar. As the count­down be­gins, all activ­it­ies are dir­ec­ted to­ward that date.

2. Tunnel vis­ion. This means hav­ing the cour­age not to ac­cept an en­gage­ment or even re­spond to an email that doesn’t ad­vance the goal.

3. Intense com­mit­ment. Distractions must be elim­in­ated. That in­cludes cut­ting back on non­es­sen­tial ob­lig­a­tions. It also means hav­ing the dis­cip­line to walk away from people who are neg­at­ive and un­sup­port­ive.

I prin­ted those guidelines out and put them on my desk where I would see them every day. In or­der to ac­com­plish what I needed to do with­in the time avail­able, I cre­ated monthly, weekly and daily goals. It might sound scary, but it kept me on track!

Taking my com­mit­ment one step fur­ther, I set up my laptop in an up­stairs bed­room. That way I wasn’t dis­trac­ted by Rick, the dog or the ringing of the phone. And I didn’t have ac­cess to the in­ter­net and email un­less I used my PC down­stairs. It’s amaz­ing how much time that saved!

Some de­cisions were dif­fi­cult. I lim­ited get to­geth­ers with friends and, even though Bailey got a walk every day, there weren’t as many of the long, off leash romps on the beach that we both en­joy. Of course, none of this would have been pos­sible without an un­der­stand­ing and sup­port­ive partner.

A cougar focuses on its prey with intense concentration, never shifting its gaze even when circling around or changing position.
A cou­gar fo­cuses on its prey with in­tense con­cen­tra­tion, nev­er shift­ing its gaze even when circ­ling around or chan­ging position.

Cougars are known for their in­tense fo­cus so every day I told my­self to “fo­cus like a cou­gar.” I of­ten asked my­self, “Does this have any­thing to do with cou­gars?” If the an­swer was no, I made a note to deal with it after I sent the ma­nu­script in.

And yes! I made my dead­line, right on March 31. The Cougar will be in stores near the end of Sept.

Will I use the Mayo Clinic guidelines again? You bet! They’re ex­cel­lent strategies for fin­ish­ing a book, art­icle or thes­is. Or whatever else your goal is, be it train­ing for a mara­thon, los­ing ten pounds in two months or be­com­ing a millionaire.





Cougars are Curious

Photo by Verena Vomastic
Photo by Verena Vomastic

Like all cats, cou­gars are curi­ous. They’re at­trac­ted to move­ments, noises and ob­jects they haven’t seen be­fore. But a curi­ous cou­gar can quickly be­come a dan­ger­ous one if some­thing trig­gers its chase and kill instinct.

The most com­mon trig­gers are quick, er­rat­ic ac­tions such as jog­ging or chil­dren play­ing, high-pitched, prey-like sounds or an an­im­al or per­son ap­pear­ing vul­ner­able be­cause they are alone, seem in­jured or are small, which in­cludes crouch­ing or squatting.

The young adult cou­gar shown here was pho­to­graphed star­ing in a Manitou Springs, Colorado home. At one point the cat stood up and put its paws on the win­dow and the own­ers wor­ried the glass would break.

Luckily, the cou­gar de­cided it had seen enough and sauntered away. And tracks in the snow re­vealed that it wasn’t trav­el­ling alone. The size of the paw prints in­dic­ated it was ac­com­pan­ied by its moth­er and a sibling.