How to Achieve the Superpower of Laser Focus

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In a world full of infinite distractions and a never-ending to-do list, it's entirely possible to achieve laserlike Focus. These are the frameworks that have made this possible for me, having turned things around from my former self with a scattered mind that seemed hopeless.

The best part is that it's not complicated. But like everything else, we need to bake it into our identities — that's the hard part, but totally doable over time.

 

The Formula for Focused Time Management

Building the discipline to focus on what needs to get done to advance in life is a skill that can be developed, a muscle to build.

In this series, we explore creating systems in our lives to perform better and achieve what matters most to each of us.

At the end of the day, we ultimately need to sit down and do the work. We need to focus on the task at hand.

One of the best insights I’ve come across was presented in an article I read about 10 years ago by Oliver Burkeman, a journalist for the Guardian. I can’t find this article online anymore, I just have my notes on it (once again, I'm so thankful for a note-taking habit!).

I entered these notes as the top pinned post in my Evernote (long before Notion) under the heading “How to GET SHIT DONE” (all caps). I re-read my condensed notes on it almost weekly… for years.

Here it is — the only time management plan that works:

1. Decide what matters most
2. Decide when you’ll do what matters most.
3. Squeeze all the other stuff around it in the remaining time.

That’s it.

There will always be too much to do.

Most of the time we do the pressing urgent things, hoping there will be time afterward for our big life-advancing projects.

These little urgent-seeming things are usually other people's agendas, making claims on your time. Or tiny busy-work items that nag at us.

They often have a deadline, that’s what gives them urgency. But it's a false urgency, and in the greater scheme of life they just don't matter in most cases. A few of them do, get your taxes done, but most of them do not matter. They will be forgotten and make no impact in your life. They provide no propulsion.

Yet we typically plow through these little pressing items and then if we have time left over, squeeze in some of our bigger life-advancing projects.

So you don’t advance in life, you just hold your place — year after year. Treading water. Not gaining much ground, if any.

This is not how super-achievers do it. They do the opposite. They first do their big ambitious projects, then the leftover time is for everything else.

You FIRST define a zone with time each day or several days a week for your personal TOP priorities, projects that will change your life and move you toward your dreams. You give these your best time slots, where you have the most energy.

Then, no matter what, you must DEFEND THE ZONE.

Defend the Zone, this is where titling of the “Action Zone” comes from in the Pillars, Pipelines & Vaults Life Operating System.

You don’t "find time" for priority work, you MAKE time for it. And squeeze the rest in, or let it slip and deal with the consequences for everything else.

If all the little pressing things slide, then so be it. You've been letting your dreams and aspirations slide for years, now flip it around. Stop letting the Projects that will change your life slide. Stop letting dreams and aspirations slide.

Let the busy work and endless little outside claims on your time slide. How many of those things will you even remember after a week?

Say NO more often. Reschedule as needed.

DO THE CENTRAL WORK OF YOUR LIFE — FIRST.

Then squeeze in the rest. Or not.


Time Mapping

Plan and schedule this Priority Work ahead of time.

If you wait until 9:00 am Wednesday to decide what you will do at 9:00 am Wednesday, you will do what is the most immediately gratifying. This is no good.

Plan the next day the evening before. Map out the key projects for the week at the beginning of the week.

Then, when the scheduled time arrives, DO THE WORK.

You don't have to feel like it to sit down and do it. No need to change your inner mindset. Just do the work, in whatever mindset.

No Inspiration is required.

I often refer to this great quote by Artist Chick Close: "Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and get to work.”

Be a professional. Amateurs and Wannabes sit around waiting for inspiration. If you are serious, sit down and do the work. The hurdle is not excellence, that is not how you judge yourself. The hurdle is just time at work, putting in the time is a success regardless of what comes out that day.

We can use mind framing approaches to help with this, and we'll explore them in future articles, videos, and newsletters.

But start by recognizing that the people who achieve their dreams show up and do the work regardless of their mood. Be one of those people. It's entirely within your power. It is your choice to make.


Putting It Together for Massive Focus

Ok, so here are the essential steps to Make Shit Happen:

1. Decide what matters most.
2. Decide when you’ll do what matters most. (Protect the Zone!)
3. Squeeze all the other stuff around it in the remaining time.
4. Schedule the time for *what matters most* ahead of time on the calendar.

The other part of Focus is to Eliminate & Reduce Distractions. Start by taking a “distraction inventory”. List and remove them. I'll diver deeper into how to do a “distraction inventory” and eliminate them in another article and video coming soon.

Thanks for reading! Lots more to come.

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