Getting Focused 01

Getting Focused 01

Like a lot of you out there, I’m about to enter a very busy period, and I’m finding that I have to make some tough choices between what I was doing a few months ago (working on personal projects and writing about them) with what is to come (doing a lot of cool research and development). I also have new ongoing commitments: being an active participant in the lives of my friends, maintaining the daily gym regimen (starting month 4 now), and continuing to develop products and sustainable company practice. And then there’s everything else: holidays, family visits, business networking, conferences, household chores, yadda yadda yadda.

If you’re like me, you’re both excited and daunted by the prospect of tackling all these things. I had written about this last week from a different perspective, basically complaining in as productive a manner as I could :-) With an entire year of extended project commitments looking me square in the face, I’ve got to toughen up.

On a related note, one of my main October goals is to start getting back into the daily blogging cycle. I can’t afford to spend hours writing posts anymore, so I’ve decided to implement a “5 minute planning, 25 minutes writing” blogging approach. So, whatever I can do in 30 minutes is it.


A lot of these projects are of the steady progress variety. I tend to be rather impatient with any activity that takes a while to develop; I like to see progress immediately. Intellectually, I know that “slow and steady wins the race”, but I get bored and need to find some other way to pass the time.

Secondly, I have a fairly high activation threshold when it comes to doing a project: it takes quite a bit of energy or pressure for me to get going. For example, when I think of something that’s innovative, I’m excited and the energy is there to push me into starting a project. Or, there is someone else I’m working with, and that provides me with the pressure/energy to activate. Otherwise, the payoff needs to be high enough for me to actually get off my butt to do it. In the latter case, it’s a matter of getting back way more than what I put in; in other words, the return on investment is at least 2 or 3 times.


My ideal approach to getting through this morass of tasks will incorporate both immediate feedback and supply the necessary motivating energy.

Then there’s also the challenge of recognizing that I can’t possibly do everything I want. And I might as well accept this. I’m an eternal optimist when it comes to doings things, so learning how to relax regarding this choice is going to be part of my methodology. This is a real growth step for me. I had worried before about losing the “spark” that keeps my mind fresh by challenging the status quo all the time, but I’ve decided that this is unlikely to happen.

I recalled David Allen saying something similar about this in Getting Things Done, and while googling for the quote I found the following interview on Fast Company on values, which has been on my mind quite a bit lately. The emphasis below is mine:

Interviewer: So a big part of setting priorities is being clear about your values? Allen: Be careful. That’s a very popular notion these days: If you focus on your values, then you’ll improve the “balance” between your business and personal lives. Give me a break. Focusing on your values may provide you with meaning, but it won’t simplify things. You’ll just discover even more stuff that’s important to you. […] We suffer the stress of infinite opportunity: There are so many things that we could do, and all we see are people who seem to be performing at star quality. It’s very hard not to try to be like them. The problem is, if you get wrapped up in that game, you’ll get eaten alive. You can do anything — but not everything. The universe is full of creative projects that are waiting to be done. So, if you really care about quality of life, if you want to relax, then don’t focus on values. Just control your aspirations. That will simplify things. Learning to set boundaries is incredibly difficult for most people.


I’m out of time already, so tomorrow I’ll pick up on these thoughts. My plan for the rest of today is to start dumping out everything I need to do in some kind of giant document so I can break them up into…well, I’m not sure yet.

(Ok, this post took 40 minutes to write and clean up, but it’s a start)


  1. Why, you break your “Brain Dump” down into projects and next actions, of course!!


  2. Dave Seah 12 years ago

    And that may very well happen, though I haven’t thought that far ahead :-) I suppose I am actually following principles that GTD extols, but cracked along the fault lines of my own personality.

  3. camping girl 12 years ago

    I like your quote from David Allen, it makes a lot of sense. Prioritising things is one of the most difficult things to learn to do!

  4. Lynn O'Connor 12 years ago

    For me, thinking about “values” leads to ideas of things to do, besides what I am doing. Since what I already agreed to do was at some level, generated by my values, I need to go in the other direction, bottom up not down. When I resume focusing on what’s in front of me, I usually end up feeling good about myself and my day. If I start thinking about values it often means I’m procrastinating, failing to focus on the job at hand. I also need to do a mind sweep, as part of my weekly review which is almost a week late.

    Thanks for this post; focus is the mantra for today. I need to focus on what’s in front of me, finish one more thing and do my weekly review.