There are 8 Laws of Focus. As we enter the final few months of the year it’s important to remember The Law of Tradeoffs.
As David Allen said, you can do anything but you cannot do everything. In order to give your perpetual devotion to any one thing it will require the perpetual neglect of many other things. Focus, therefore, requires tradeoffs.
You can only focus on so many things at a time. And you can only focus for so many hours during the day. Instead of ignoring the limitation on your energy, embrace it and find ways to routinize and automate the non-trivial areas of your life so that even when you are not giving them your full attention and devotion, they are not being fully neglected.
(“Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.”)
“We tend to overestimate what we can do in a short period, and underestimate what we can do over a long period, provided we work slowly and consistently.” — Gretchen Rubin
When you have something difficult on your plate — an activity or responsibility you must do but which you don’t want to do — ask yourself this:
How it could be easy? How it could be fun?
(h/t Jenny Blake)
When you set out to make change, or to embark on a bold new venture, there will always be resistance. One common area of resistance is perfectionism and overthinking.
“Perfectionists spend too much time on little difference as the margins at the expense of the important things.” says Ray Dalio.
With a perfectionist mindset, you place too much emphasis on things that don’t matter as much. You focus on reaching an ideal state that is unrealistic at your current state. This can apply to projects and tasks as well as to relationships, experiences, and other areas of responsibility in your life.
A few ways to overcome perfectionism include:
- Limit the scope of how much time you are willing to spend on something, and then ship what you have within your timeline.
- Give yourself a deadline for when you will decide on something, and then make the best choice you can with the information you have.
- Start with your first bad idea or crappy first draft. Use this to create movement and get started, knowing that action and experience will bring more clarity.
At home, on a lazy Saturday morning, I have two favorite mugs. One is my 10-oz Lino Coffee Mug. And the other is my double-walled Monty cup from Fellow.
This is a question Sarah Peck brought up yesterday during a workshop she hosted.
There are a plethora of things which we could do and unending demands on our time and attention. It takes design and focus to only do the things that matter most. Sometimes it can be nice to have a list of the things you don’t do and don’t bother with in order to create the space for the important stuff.
If you’ve been on my FAB list for business owners, then this is exactly what’s I’ve been doing.
(See also: this fantastic HBR article on the value of Operational Transparency.)
What happens when you have the right goals, and you believe your action plan is dialed in… but your schedule and routines are all out of whack?
How do you solve the problem of: cannot successfully implement the action plan?
You start small. You pick one critical action that is part of your strategy. And you do that one action. Then, repeat. It sounds overly simple, but most functional things are.
I once read that anything worth doing is worth doing poorly. Giving yourself permission to stink will make it easier to begin. And starting is often one of the biggest hurdles of all. A crappy first draft of an email newsletter is far better than no draft at all.
Seth Godin wrote that “the only path to amazing runs directly through not-yet-amazing. But not-yet-amazing is a great place to start, because that’s where you are. For now.”
This is a great interview with some fantastic photos from Joe about his new book, Lay of the Land. I got a copy of the book when it first came out, and I devoured it. I had no idea it was going to be part memoir and I absolutely loved the story that Joe shared — I read through it in one day.
If you are a business owner or CEO, the current state of your business is a result of the decisions you have made up to this point… the goals you have set… the things to which you have said yes and no. If you don’t like the hours you work, the cycles of your revenue, the clients you serve…. start making new decisions.
Side note: if you’re a small business owner and you’re interested in the new training, email firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know and I’ll be sure to let you know when we open up enrollment for the next pilot group (around the end of October).
I was just recently reminded of a time when my friend Dan Mall shared about how he replaced the phrase “I don’t have time” with “it’s not a priority”.
He wrote: “Recently, I’ve tried to stop saying, “I don’t have time.” It insinuates that I’m a helpless victim to the all-powerful stream of hours that mightily passes me by. It’s easy to adopt an “Oh well” attitude to what you’re giving up. It authorizes my apathy. Instead, I’ve replaced it with the phrase, “That’s not a priority.” Suddenly, I’ve taken control of my own decisions. I’ve taken responsibility for what I do and don’t do. I’ve added clarity, condemnation, and encouragement, all in 4 short words.”
For me, especially as a business owner, things changed significantly for me when I realized that I alone was in charge of how I spend my time. I have to be the one to decide for myself what the most important use of my time is, and I have no excuses if my schedule feels out of control.
When talking with Cal Newport a while back, he shared with me about the 3 waves of productivity:
- First there was Efficiency
- Then Intentionally
- Now Meaning
These three waves go in order and each one serves the next. You begin by just trying to be more efficient. Then, once you’ve discovered how to save time, you begin to focus more on making sure you’re being proactive with how you spend your time. And then, lastly, you move toward meaningful productivity — where you take back all that time you are saving and you use it for the things that matter.
Thus, as you can see, you need all three to get the true benefits, and it’s not until you get to the third wave that you start to see all the benefits. It is in the third wave — Meaningful Productivity — where you start to produce more valuable work and you find your work more meaningful.