The Focus Course

The Value of Focusing on One Thing at a Time (Video)

Every month we host a group coaching call for the Focus Club. During these calls we answer any and all questions from the Club members.

These calls are also where I share a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff related to what we’re doing here at Blanc Media and how we keep things running.

During last week’s call, I spent some time unpacking our recent move to an 8-week work schedule. And in there I about the value in having a clear goal, a single focus, and a deadline.

This is something that is relevant to many things far beyond just a 6-week focused project cycle. And so I wanted to share this clip with everyone. Enjoy!

There is significant value in having a clear goal, a single focus, and a deadline.

When you have these things you work with greater efficiency, you produce a higher quality of work, and you have more fun doing so. (c.f. Deep Work, Flow, The One Thing)

This is one of those things that we know in principle, but many of us do not actually walk it out. We take on every new idea we have, we say yes to too many incoming opportunities, and we just generally have too much going on at any given time.

We have so many interesting, exciting, and important projects we are working on that we don’t know where to start. We feel overwhelmed by options. There is too much to do.

And, thus, one very common question is How do I get it all done?

At times I feel stretched thin. Even though I know that I do my best work when I am head down and focused on just one project and it’s all I think about until I’m done.

But sometimes, that sort of single-minded focus is not an option. (Or is it?)

To have multiple projects and areas of interest, you have to be okay with letting one or more of them be neglected for a time while you work on the others. Instead of working on multiple things simultaneously, perhaps it would be better to work on just one thing at a time.

Here are some suggestions for those who have several projects and ideas all going at the same time, but don’t know how to juggle them all…

  1. Identify your roles and goals: you need balance in your life, so step back and identify your roles (parent, boss, employee, self-improver, etc.) And make sure that you’re not spending the vast majority of your time in just one of those roles.

  2. Reduce the scope: consider scaling back what “1.0” looks like, so it’s something that is attainable. And consider lowering your bar of perfectionism — my friend Sean McCabe says we ought to aim for 90% complete (instead of 99%).

  3. Reduce your project load: do you have to be doing all the projects right now? Can one or more of them be put on pause? Instead of doing three projects all simultaneously, can you do one at a time? Even on a week-to-week basis?

  4. Get help: consider delegating and/or hiring others to help you.

  5. Learn to say no: to your own ideas, and to other peoples. In the Focus Course, we have a day dedicated to ideation and strengthening our creative imagination. One of the benefits to this exercise is that you learn you have more ideas than time, and you don’t have to be a slave to your good ideas. We all will have ideas that we want to do, but the existence of them doesn’t mean we are now obligated to flesh them out.

  6. Spend less time on counterfeit rest: things like television, video games, social media, mindless internet surfing — these things can be time sinks. Moreover, they don’t leave us feeling refreshed, motivated, or recharged. You most definitely need breaks and time to rest, but there are some great ways to do it other than zoning out.

  7. Plan ahead: your productive tomorrow starts today. What is one thing you can do now that will improve life for your future self? Go to bed on time, set out your clothes for tomorrow, write down the first thing you’re going to do when you sit down to work in the morning, etc. This will give you a head start on your projects.

Too many spinning plates will hinder your long-term focus and motivation

Is it best to make a little bit of progress on a lot of projects, or is it better to make a lot of progress on just a few projects?

In short, the latter.

It is better to focus on making significant progress on only a few projects at a time.

Here’s why:

  • When you’re focusing on one project, everything becomes fodder and inspiration.
  • You have a clearer understanding of what needs to be done next.
  • It’s easier to measure progress, and progress helps build and keep your momentum.
  • When your focus is undivided, the quality of work you’re doing is better.
  • When your focused on a single project, it’s easier to get in the flow — and that is a naturally motivating state to be in.

If and when we’re afraid that we should be focusing on multiple projects all at the same time, it oftentimes comes from having too granular of a perspective.

This is where annual, monthly, and weekly planning can be so helpful. They give us a big-picture perspective, which also gives us the permission to focus on one thing at a time.

This is easier said than done, of course, because when we are focusing on just one project it feels as if we are neglecting the others. But the truth is that you’re not neglecting the others if you have a plan to get to them at a later date. In fact, what we’re actually doing is making sure that when we do get to the next project, we’ll be able to give it the full attention it deserves.

The challenge to this approach is that our lizard brain freaks out. We presume that anything which is important should be worked on every day and right now!!! But that’s working without the big picture in mind.

Don’t Let the Excitement of a New Idea Dictate How You Spend Your Time

It is better to make significant progress on a few projects at a time, than a little bit of progress on a lot of projects.

Why? Because…

  • When you’re focusing on one project, it becomes one of the top ideas in your mind and everything becomes inspiration. You’re hungry to learn and discover.

  • When you’re focused on just one project, there is a clearer understanding of what needs to be done next. Which means less cognitive energy spent on managing all the things and more spent on doing.

  • And when you’re spending more time actually making progress, it’s easier to measure progress, and progress realized builds your momentum and motivation.

  • When your focus is undivided, the quality of work you’re doing is better. We know this on a micro-scale, “there is no such thing as multitasking” and the same goes for a slightly larger scale as well.

  • When your focused on a single project, it’s easier to get in the flow — and that is a naturally motivating state to be in.

FYI: you can get the access to the complete archives of all our coaching calls when you sign up for a Focus Club membership.

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