“Why don’t you just do it? It takes like 10 minutes”.
There are those tasks that we know we should get done, there’s a clear benefit to completing them, and we can probably finish them very quickly but for some reason we just don’t. Why? Because even though those tasks don’t require a lot of time to do, it requires a lot of focus.
If we scan our task list the tasks we procrastinate on are ones that we don’t really want to do, aren’t very clear in which action steps to take, and require a ton of focus to complete. For example if you had a task that said “automate follow up emails”, this task might actually only take you 20 minutes to go on infusionsoft, write a few emails, and sequence them together and it would be highly valuable for you — but if you just put that into your task list you’re not going to do it because it takes you twenty minutes of concentrated attention. Working in infusionsoft is very different compared to a task like cleaning your room where you can sing along to music while you pick up your dirty laundry.
According to Eben Pagan, the ability to focus on a single task is one of the most rare and valuable states. And I would agree to that statement because we really do only have a limited amount of energy every day to spend on focusing our attention. Personally I think we get about 3 hours a day of mental energy (maybe 6 if we train in this area), so to be effective, we have to choose wisely what things we’re going to spend our precious attention on.
As a creative or strategist, there seems to be a never-ending flow of good ideas. Ideas that we are really hyped up for, but for some reason we just don’t execute.
What tends to happen to me is that during times where I’m driving, showing, or when I’ve just had coffee, I get flooded with ideas and visions of things I could do. I immediately start actioning them in my head. It goes something like:
Okay I’m going to set up this joint venture program, what does that look like. Okay, this works and this works but I don’t have these resources to actually make it work.
Then I get distracted before I fully develop the strategy in my head. This is detrimental because while I’m spending energy half-determining the upside and resources involved, I waste a ton of mental energy thinking about what those action items will be for myself. I don't write it down because I’m not fully convinced — because the concept isn’t thought through.
After reading Getting Things Done, I’m convinced that this is the reason why I often feel mentally drained. If, when you’re planning out the strategy and don’t fully plan out the action items, you actually waste will power by halfway thinking through implementaion task even though you aren’t actually implementing. Meaning, you spend energy “implementing” when you haven’t actually implemented anything.
Focus is the act of putting all of your attention and concentration towards a single act. It’s staying away from distractions like email and Twitter to finally get some real work done. It’s doing the hard work and putting your all into it. Focus is a cycle of abundance which takes less time than your normal, easy routine. Focusing leaves you with more time to recuperate your energy, which ultimately allows you to focus harder tomorrow.
When assessing your progress on producing things of real value (the best path to building a rewarding and well-rewarded life), consider your own capacity for hard focus. Most important accomplishments boil down to this single, often overlooked ability.
This quote is from Cal Newport, who believes that the ability to sustain focus for long periods of time is the key to success.
Let’s say you and your best friend run against one another. Your best friend runs for three hours a day, listening to his pumping workout music and looking on as the sun sets under the ocean. You, however, simply run in your neighborhood for an hour every day. But you’re different. You’re not the staring at the sights or the people, you’re focusing on your running form and your breathing, every single day. After a month, who do you think will be the better runner? You will, because you were focusing.