>1 | Focus Isn't Sexy
— but, boy, is it the secret sauce.
It’s stunning to me how good I am at looking longterm at innovations and macroeconomics and projecting an obnoxiously optimistic view of the future that we continue to move towards (however painfully) and how absolutely terrible I am at staying on one mission at a time.
^this was the rear-view mirror moment
I was 24 years old, was working 80–100 hours a week in New York, looked myself in the mirror and said, “You are not behaving in light of what you believe.”
That’s hard to admit.
So what did I do? I’m now 15 months in to a multi-year, reverse-engineered plan that will end with me realizing a childhood dream (more on that to come). But there’s another part of this self awareness that I’m sure you’ll probably identify with.
When I’ve charted the day to day grind of something I want to earn, build, or do and try to execute I’ve rarely lasted more than a few months.
That’s hard to admit.
Think about yourself. Wasn’t this the year you were finally going to run that marathon? Start that business? Write that book? Teach yourself to code? Get past, “Quiero un burrito, por favor!”
We’re halfway through the year. What happened?
“What gets measured gets managed.” — Peter Drucker
Yet during that same time you’ve watched every episode of Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley, gone out several times each week, and read Thor knows how many articles on The 5 Most Productive Ways To Be Productive.
“But Daniel, I’m still shooting for that goal. I just get distracted from sticking with it.”
I know. See, it’s actually not a problem of focus. The focus is there, far out on the goals that live in “Someday”. The problem is commitment.
Yes, this could paint me as a curmudgeon amongst my generation or brand me as trying to score points with the F500 crowd whom got lost and wound up reading this article (here’s looking at you, kid). But the same consumer psychology surrounding Facebook and Instagram and the buying habits of 14–32 year olds is exactly the same reason why you and I have a hard time to sticking to our goals.
There’s quicker gratification in not padding out a 401K or mortgage but instead filling up a feed with pictures of experiences our parents waited until they were too physically compromised to experience. In the 1960’s you kept up with the Joneses by inviting them over to see your new Volvo, look at your television, see your dishwasher, and then shook their hand goodbye while wearing your fancy watch. Now it’s a video of the concert, a VSCO shot of your private beach, or a vlog of your perfect latte balanced on your Penny Board as you skate through the West Village.
We care far too much about fitting in. And you’re surprised none of your goals are crossed off?
The last 6 months have been wildly productive for me on multiple fronts. So in the spirit of giving back, I want to give you the process I built on top of the frameworks I outlined back in January. This isn’t the right way to be productive. But it’s helped my self-awareness. Helped me identify areas where I suck. And given me tools and aids to say no.
“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.” — Bruce Lee
I used this little journal to take the reverse-engineered goals I arrived at using my framework method (see frameworks post, here) and plan out the next 3 months of work in per hour increments. It took 2 full weekends to do that. That might seem like a lot of time.
Mark Roberge of HubSpot was once asked what was one habit someone could build that would have a lasting impact.
“I probably spend more time on time management than anyone else. I book out my calendar 40–60 days in advance not because I have that many meetings but because I block off time based on what I want to accomplish. Goals for my team, dates with my wife, time with my boys, case studies I want to research for my Harvard class or even future writings. I’ve had one giant excel doc running for the last 5 years with everything.”
The tools don’t matter. The accountability of your commitment does. Because it’s then that you realize things about yourself. For example, after 2 months of data I saw that my entire day was won or lost within the first 30 minutes of waking up.
Now I wake up earlier, have an alarm set on the other side of the room, and begin the day with an easy task to quickly get a win.
I’ve only been using this for a few weeks now but am already in love. Before this I was using a combination of Swipes (beautiful app) and paper tracking in my journal. I took the hour by hour planning I built out on paper with the journal and replicated it digitally on Todoist. Again, took about a weekend. But now it’s on every device, always updates, is linked to files and my location, and ties in with my Gmail. My only complaint is I can only link one Gmail account with it. All the same, highly recommend. Had it for about 30 minutes before I upgraded to the premium.
This is, hands down, my favorite Google Chrome plugin of all time. Blacklist the sites you waste time on. Then go about your business (“Move along”). Try going to one of those sites. :} Pretty great, huh? Built for New Yorkers, people that appreciate tough love, and to help you stop caring what your friends at the bar or that crazy aunt says about you.
There are plenty of tools out there. The winning isn’t in the tools. The winning is in the boring, day in and day out execution of your end goal, ruthlessly reengineered for what your future demands of you today and doing everything you can to make what’s next is the only thing you see.
I sincerely hope this helps you. If it does, let me know. If you need more specifics, let me know. If you think this was a waste of time, let me know. I’d be honored if you shared.