The Stunning Truth About Focusing on the Important

February 28th, 2010 § 0 comments

9 Ways to Focus on your Priorities

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

It occurred to me yesterday, as I was doing the laundry (slowly, without rush, because I didn’t have to be anywhere), why minimalism is becoming so popular:

Minimalism is the ultimate lifehack.

For those who aren’t familiar with the term: lifehackers find little ways to make their lives more productive. The idea of lifehacking has spawned thousands of blogs, sites, books. Lifehacker is one of the most popular lifehacking blogs. Getting Things Done is one of the more famous lifehacking books.

Being minimalist trumps all of the little stuff. Minimalists don’t have to figure out how to do more stuff quickly, because they have no interest in doing more stuff.

The average person has lots of things to do every day. This leads to stress, pain, anger, and frustration, because they can possibly get it all done. Then they go shopping to make themselves feel better.

Being minimalist is about focusing on the important.

A minimalist says: I’m going to do three (or even one) things today. I’m going to focus on them completely, and I’m going to do them well.

You don’t need a personal organizer, personal assistant, super-productivity system or whatever to do three things well in a day.

The magical thing that happens, when you concentrate on very few projects per day: you start to make great work.

Once you get to that point, you can unsubscribe to all those little lifehacking sites, with their little tips. You can throw out your personal planner. These things just aren’t necessary anymore.

You can stop spending hours looking for ways to be more productive, because you’re simply not interested in “being productive” anymore.

When minimalism is applied correctly, you actually have all of this leftover time. For instance, all of my work is done fairly early most days, so I spend the rest of the day reading books. I have so much time to read books, that I’m finishing way more than my original goal to read one book a week.

All of the books lead to big new ideas, which positively effects my writing. I can contribute more value to you, the reader, which in turn makes more people interested in reading me.

Here are 9 ways you can focus on the important

1, Identify the four areas of your life that are most important to you.

Simply write them down. It can be powerful to know what is most important to you, because then you can begin to focus on only the essential.

My four priories are: Writing, Yoga, Cooking, and Reading.

I find it helpful to only do one of these things professionally at one time: right now I’m only a professional writer, and nothing else. You might notice that photography is no longer on my list of important things. It’s been replaced by cooking, which dominates my thoughts whenever I’m not writing. What does that mean? I’m not sure yet, but it might mean I’m not interested so much in doing photography anymore. What do you do that doesn’t interest you anymore, but you keep doing because you thought it was your identity?

2, Learn to say no to requests.

Once you’ve identified the essential, you have to start saying no to things that come your way which don’t coincide with your interests. It can be easy to say yes to a lot of projects that are all over the place. We all want to be helpful to as many people as we can, but inevitably we get involved in projects that we aren’t any good at. This just frustrates people, and wastes a lot of time.

3, Start to eliminate things you don’t care about.

Stop doing things you’re doing just out of obligation. Abandon the busy work. Stop going to that book club that you dread going to. There are a million obligations that we get ourselves into over the years. These obligations keep piling on top of one an other, until you have no time for yourself anymore. Gradually stop working on projects you don’t care about. Tell people you quit the book club. Eventually you will have time for yourself again.

4, Give yourself huge blocks of time to work on one project.

Give yourself five hours to work on one project, and do nothing else. Spend all of your time concentrating on the work involved in this project. Make mistakes, and then make breakthroughs. Most of all, make progress. When you feel your attention wandering, slow down, and continuing working on what is important to you, until it’s done.

5, Turn off distractions.

Nothing is worse than trying to get work done with the TV on in the background. You might think that it’s helping you work: it’s not helping you. Seriously, these distractions sabotage everything that you’re trying to accomplish. Turn off your phone, power down Twitter, destroy your TV, and eat your lunch before you sit down to focus on the important.

6, Don’t comment on things that you don’t want to be involved in.

We all have opinions, but we need to consider whether we’re most useful to people if that’s all we’re giving. It’s so easy to offer an unsolicited critical opinion on the work of someone else, especially in this age of Internet anonymity. What you’re saying might hurt people, and it might not have any grounding in reality anyway. When you’re a critic your own work can also suffer from your own negativity. So, next time you’re tempted to tell someone that what they’re doing is wrong, maybe consider first: are you willing to help them do it right?

7, Make time for important things.

Many people spend less than 2 hours a week on their important work, and the rest of the time they’re distracted or at a job they don’t enjoy working at. You have to make time to work on what you’ve determined is important to you. If you want to be a writer, you have to write every single day for at least a few hours (if not more.) If you want to be a photographer, you have to shoot every single day for at least a few hours (if not more.) You can’t expect to get good at anything if you’re a weekend warrior.

8, Tell people about your priorities.

Make it clear what your priorities are to everyone you know. Tell your best friends, your significant other, your kids. Start a blog and write every single day about how your priorities are being accomplished. By telling people, you can hold yourself responsible. You can also compare notes, if your girlfriend thinks your priorities are beer, xbox, belching and sleeping, and you think your priorities are painting, productivity, cleaning, and thinking… well, you might be doing something wrong. Live and breathe your priorities, and they will become what you are.

9, Learn as much as you can.

You have to study your priorities in regularly. If you’re a creator, read as much as you can about creativity. If you’re a cook, read as much as you can about cooking. Subscribe to blogs that share common interests with you. Read real books! Books are amazing creatures full of ideas; they will cause you to grow. Investigate whether there are classes you can take in your area, or online, which will help you learn more about what is important to you. You will never stop learning, so keep consuming information that will help you. I promise you, it is the most important element.


How do you focus on your priorities?

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