[amazon-product align=”right” alink=”0000FF” bordercolor=”000000″ height=”240″ region=”us” tracking_id=”varsblah-20″]B0049B32AQ[/amazon-product]Leo Babauta, creator of Zen Habits and author of The Power of Less, offers practical advice in Focus: A Simplicity Manifesto in the Age of Distraction. All parts of this review are and will be available in the Archive.
“Success demands singleness of purpose.”– Vince Lombardi
Diversification is the key to successful investment growth. It’s something we’ve all heard many times before. But is it really true? During the 1960s, many conglomerates tried to diversify their operations by purchasing several companies in completely unrelated fields. All that did was leave these jacks-of-all-trades with very little time to focus on what they did best. Yes, there are exceptions like Berkshire Hathaway and the Tata Group, but the best companies tend to be those that focus on less and make sure they do it better than anyone else.
It’s the same in our personal lives. Whether we’re working on too many projects or trying to be all things to all people all the time, spreading ourselves too thin often means forgetting our priorities and losing our effectiveness. That’s why the book offers a simple system for getting amazing things done. The opening chapter of part four is actually the best in the entire manuscript, which makes me wish it had been placed right upfront (with each subsequent section expanding on the three core principles outlined). In any case, there’s nothing wrong with repeating good advice:
- Find something amazing to work on. For some people, this is easy. They know exactly what they love and what they want to do. For other people, figuring out what they’re passionate about is a little harder. But your something amazing doesn’t have to be huge commitment for life. It can even be a fun activity that you can commit to for just a day. If you can come up with several tasks that could potentially have a high impact on your life, pick a few for now and keep the rest on your master list. If you don’t like one, you can simply change tomorrow. Just give it each one a try no matter how minor or silly it may appear. Even small things have meaning.
- Clear away everything else. Start by removing any unnecessary clutter from your desk so all you have are the items you need to work on your task. Do the same on your computer by closing all programs and browsers that aren’t essential (including popup alerts and notifications that will distract you). Divert all calls to voicemail and disconnect the internet if you know you’ll be tempted. Clear away time in your schedule (you might want to come into work early or get up before the kids) so you won’t be disturbed.
- Focus on that something amazing. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve skipped yoga in the morning hoping to get to it in the evening only to find myself too tired when the evening comes around. That’s why the key here is to make sure your task is the first thing you do in the day. While you may feel the urge to quickly check email or catch up on tweets, this should not be acted on. Take a deep breath, acknowledge the emotions, and jot down what you’ll get to later. Then get back to work. Remember that this is something you chose for a reason. So really pour yourself into it. Get as much of it done as you can. Only after this can you go online. Better yet, get outside for a relaxing walk.
“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”– Alexander Graham Bell
That’s the beauty and effectiveness of focus. You work on one thing with complete dedication and only move on to the next once the first is complete. It takes practice to perfect this, but eventually you realise how amazing a system it is. Since our brains can only handle one thing at a time (try listening to two simultaneous conversations in a crowded room and you’ll see what I mean), multitasking means constantly switching back and forth. All this does is decrease our attention spans and make us more prone to mistakes.
This isn’t to say that we should only work on one project at a time. Doing so might result in you wasting time while waiting for someone to complete a necessary step before you can continue. Just remember that you must work on each aspect of each project by itself. Focus on only a few major projects (ideally giving top priority to those that will have the most impact) and you’ll do great. What could be simpler?
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