How to Focus on the Important

January 11th, 2010 § 0 comments

Success often comes down to priorities, why have only a few of us decided we have them?

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter

I asked many people over new years what they would like to do in ten years. I got a lot of ‘I don’t know…’ answers.

I know one woman who wants to move to France. She’s wanted to move there for a number of years. I asked her if she would make it there by 2020, and she wasn’t sure if that was enough time. She’ll be nearly 60 in 2020.

I told her she could do it in less than a year.

Why not just go to France, if that’s where you want to be?

Many people spend so much time talking about what they wish they had the will power to achieve. If these people spent half as long talking and more time doing the work to get them to their goal every single day, eventually they might just get there.

Achieving your goals ultimately comes down to focusing on your priorities. However, many people seek simply to avoid setting them.

Instead of starting a business, a person continues to work at Starbucks.

Instead of traveling the world, a person buys an SUV.

It’s also important to realize when you have handicapped yourself by using a ‘when this happens, then I’ll do this.’ statement. Like, ‘if only I had a million dollars, I’d start my own business and travel the world!’

Realistically you’ll never earn a million dollars, so you’ll never achieve your dream.

My biggest goal right now is to support myself by writing this blog. This naturally means that my daily focus is writing incredibly valuable articles for this blog.

It is absolutely essential that you take a moment and think about what your ultimate goal is, in this moment, and prioritize it. Make this single goal the most important activity of every day. — Even if you are working at Starbucks, your day doesn’t revolve around Starbucks. It’s just where you go to work, but meanwhile your brain is thinking about photography.

How to focus on your priorities to achieve greater success.

  1. Select one overall priority that you care about intrinsically.
  2. Break down the priority into manageable steps that are actionable.
  3. Spend at least an hour (more if you can) every day working towards it.
  4. Be accountable. Tell everyone you’re moving to France by 2011.
  5. Map your progress in the short term and what you’ve achieved in the longer term.
  6. Reward yourself when you’ve made sufficient progress.


It’s okay to have other interests, but only give yourself one priority.

Now, there’s no reason why you can’t have multiple interests (minor priorities) at any one time, but I think it’s important to just focus on one over-arching priority. If you have seventeen priorities it’s really hard to find the time to do one thing every day to further them.

Jane, left a comment a few days ago listing her many priorities: writing, photography, web design, and teaching.

She recognized that she couldn’t focus on all of them at once, and she is totally right. You can’t master all of these things at one time. I recommended that she pick one to work towards mastering, before investing too much time in the others.

But it is also worth noting that she can be all of these things that she listed.

In fact, all of these skills compliment each other in significant ways. A web designer/photographer/writer/teacher is a very different professional than just a photographer. A photographer who cannot write will have difficulty communicating with her subjects and gathering contacts. If she cannot design a website, she will have to pay a web designer to put her work online. Teaching photography is one of the best ways a photographer can network with clients and other photographers.

Priorities change over time.

At various times in my own life I’ve invested thousands of hours in the very same skills Jane listed. Earlier in my life (probably between the ages of 12-16) I wanted to be a web designer, so I built many websites. Later I choose to concentrate on photography (18-23), so I spent thousands of hours taking photos. This eventually led to a job as a photo editor (21-24) where I spent thousands more hours making photos look brilliant on stories which were published on websites.

It’s perfectly acceptable to shift your priorities, and I think it’s only natural that they will change over time.

We are human beings, not robots, and our interests morph as we achieve various levels of skill. If you force yourself to stick with one path, when you really want to change it, then you’ll end up being incredibly unhappy.

Let the other priorities become less important until you’ve attained some level of mastery in the first.

I’ve spent many years with maintaining writing as passive activity, while I was focusing on art directing and photography.

I didn’t stress about writing. I still wrote as often as possible, but not on a schedule. Two summers ago I filled two Moleskins with a novel, without even making it a priority. That novel still isn’t a priority, but it was a big passive step towards being a better writer, as I was focusing on larger priorities.

Now that writing is my ultimate focus, all of that passive work behind the scenes has come to the forefront. The pieces are fitting together, and the results I’m seeing are extraordinary.

What are your priorities? How are you working towards them?


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