If You Want to Be Successful, Focus on Less

Do you realize how much crap we focus on that’s virtually meaningless in our lives?  Of course you do, you’re reading this!  Just kidding.  Seriously though.  How much of a difference in your life is that tweet really going to make?  How big a consequence is it going to be if you don’t hit the “like” button on your friends’ Facebook post?  Is it really going to kill you if you don’t respond to that email within the next 10 minutes?  And does it really matter in the grand scheme of things if you didn’t catch the latest episode of whatever show you’re consuming right now?  Obviously the answer is no and yet the majority of us spend inordinate amounts of time on all of these things.  But why?

Fear of Boredom or not being busy

For whatever reason (I’ll argue at the advent of social media and smartphones), it was implanted in our brains that without being busy our lives would have no purpose or God forbid be meaningless.  It’s almost as if not doing something every single minute of the day makes you lazy or even worse, worthless.  If you’re not in the office then you’re of no use to the company.  If you’re not on social media, then you’re missing out on the latest news, trends, or whatever gossip you need to be paying attention to.  If you’re not doing something every single minute of every single day then you’re not maximizing your place in this world.   That couldn’t be further from the truth.

People become successful from doing a few things well

In reality, to have a life that’s meaningful it’s pretty much the opposite of focusing on all things at once to appear busy.  It’s actually focusing on a few things that will have a profound effect on your life that counts.  Ever hear of the 80/20 rule?  20% of of things we do usually account for 80% of our success.  Think about it in your own life.  If you’re really great at a few things, those few things usually account for most of the success in your life.  It doesn’t mean that other things in your life don’t make you well rounded or have more interesting things to talk about.  But when it comes to your overall “who you are and why you are successful” the ancillary things in your life usually have very little to do with the bigger picture.  If that’s the case then what can you do about it?  How can you knock off all the extra baggage in your life that’s not doing you any favors?  Ask yourself this question at any given moment in the day:

If this isn’t useful, do I need to be doing it this second?

The next time you are on Facebook perhaps you should be asking yourself, “what purpose is this serving me with regards to meaningful things in my life?” You very well might have a bullshit excuse answer.  You might be saying “well, it’s entertaining.”  Movies are entertaining but are they really important in the grand scheme of your life?  Of course not.   The next time you put up a post of yourself eating a sandwich on Instagram, ask yourself “what purpose is this serving me?”  You might answer “it’s helping me with my following.”  Yes but what does that following help you with?

Before you get all huffy let me at least acknowledge that there are some people’s Instagram accounts that are the lifeblood of their businesses.  Some people make a living on Facebook.  To those people I’m not telling them not to post on Instagram or be on Facebook.  Like I said, you need to ask yourselves “do I need to be doing it this second?”  For most of us, social media and entertainment isn’t incredibly meaningful in the grand scheme of our lives.

There’s a time and place for meaningless things

I’m also not saying you shouldn’t be entertained.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t just shut your brain down for a while and be amused every now and then.  But I am saying that the 80/20 rule definitely applies here.  If you’re spending 80% of your time on 80% of things that won’t advance you in a meaningful way, you’re never going to advance in that meaningful way.  There’s a time and place for watching a movie but those things need only come after you’re focusing on the things that matter.  And as I said, those things that matter can usually be whittled down to a few things.

What matters to me?

In my own life, there are a few things that are extremely important to me: Family and friends, my health, and my career.   That’s where the bulk of my time is spent.  The majority of the things I do in my day are connected to my long term goals of having a better family, being healthy, and advancing my career.  Everything else?  That’s just stuff to fill in the blanks.  Like I said, there’s nothing wrong with any of it, but it’s not a primary focus of my day.

What matters to you?  And are you making those things your primary focus?

P.S. if you really want to get into this subject I suggest reading Cal Newport’s Deep Work.  Great book.

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