Focus. Getting distracted wastes time and breeds potential for failure.

2014 was a tough year for me.  I brought my father back to his condo from the retirement home in a quick decision that followed months of observing “little” things that didn’t seem to make sense.  My dad was not fully functioning and I couldn’t understand what was happening.

The process of deterioration was slow, but progressive and complex to a non-medical professional daughter who did not have any idea what she was facing.  Dementia was creeping inside a man who had a MBA from University of Chicago and had been more organized and on top of the latest technology than anyone I had met.  But at 87, something was wrong.

Between hundreds of doctors appointments, falling and calling me at 3 am in London to say he was on the floor in Florida, to begging the doctor to assign us hospice help, to finding caregivers who could be there 24/7, to making sure he had a new outfit for Easter, going to the beach for an evening drink, making all of his meals, sorting medicines, I was in over my head and swamped.

Meanwhile, I was asked to join a nanotechnology company based in Palo Alto, CA and learn the topic in order to deliver a $50 million fundraising task.  At this stage in my career, I was challenged to learn a new scientific topic, travel 10 time zones weeks at a time, and pull together the entire corporate strategy in an e-book.  (Sometimes my ideas take more work than I even expect!).

Focusing on what I was trying to learn and accomplish while dealing with a dying father was a challenge I really did not have the foresight to know what was ahead.  On one Friday morning after I moved him to a 24/7 care facility, I received a call he had fallen and was seriously hurt.  I spent 3 days in the hospital trying to sort out next steps.  We moved him to the caregivers home after a week in hospice care and he seemed to be recovering.

En route back to California from Europe I was in Chicago for my 40th High School reunion when my “purse was ringing all night”.  He had fallen again and broke his hip.  I found a flight at 1am and was in Florida by 10 am the next day, cancelling yet another work trip.  I sorted the hospice arrangements and flew back to work.

In this case, distraction from work was proving almost unbearable.  Dealing with the multiple events and sorting all of the care was overwhelming.

The only thing I could do was focus when I could with no interruptions and compartmentalize the trauma at home.

Somehow, dad hung on long enough for me to say goodbye with a smile.  The fundraising pitch got done in the most amazing production of my career and we are off and running on the fundraising.

In hindsight, all would have been easier if I were able to focus.  But I couldn’t master the unknown with dad and switch between a dying father and  Nanotechnology.  Somehow, I pulled it together and got the work done to a high standard.  Several months late, but what can you do.  We are only human.

What I learned from this experience is to focus on the task at hand fully and not let everything distract you.  Once I was able to take that approach, I got more done, everyone was better for it, dad was ok and the project complete.  Hindsight is 20/20 but focus was the only way I could manage this very tough year and still come out whole. Exhausted but I delivered to both my loved on and my work.

Let’s hope 2015 is easier.