Welcome to The Focus Formulas!
This is a blog dedicated to the belief that the ability to the focus is one of the key skills of a healthy, rewarding, and productive life, and that this ability can be radically improved.
This is something I realized over the years, as my layman’s interest in cognitive psychology collided with an increasingly demanding education and career. Being able to focus was something I mostly took for granted during college and grad school. It was easier then, as those were the days before several focus-killing trends took off.
It was before the weaponization of social media, which I’ve never been a big user of, and mostly before the smartphone revolution got underway. The last one took awhile to catch me, as I was that guy still proudly sporting a clamshell as late as 2011 or so.
I was also given a lot of control over my environment. If I wanted to retreat to a quiet room to do my work, I could do so for as long as I wanted.
That came to an end when I left school, master’s degree in hand. My first job was in one of those open work spaces so popular in tech. There was a lot of email to deal with, an obnoxious company chat system, hard deadlines and conflicting priorities. I’d gotten through school by being good at math and avoiding distraction, not by being a pro at managing information overload. I was a lot better at the former than the latter.
My next job after that started better, but then added a tech support duties, which made it worse. There was one bright spot, however. One of my coworkers was a true master of focus.
Whereas most of us worked with a browser tab open to the news or Facebook, his screens contained nothing that wasn’t relevant to work. He listened to music, but it was the same song on repeat the whole day. Most people, while working, are half on task, half doing something else. Not him.
As I got to know him, I found out that he’d worked a more or less full time job while earning multiple technical degrees, and had achieved a senior position in his mid twenties that most engineers won’t reach until later in their careers, if ever.
Part of it was that he was very smart. However, there are a lot of very smart people in the world, the vast majority of whom can’t boast anything near his achievements. Part of it is just hard work and putting in the hours, but again, plenty of people put in a lot of hours, and don’t get nearly as far. As I got to know him, it became apparent that his incredible focus was what set him apart.
As I reflected on this, I realized that is was also at play for virtually all of the highly successful people I had known up to that point. Over the years that followed, I delved deeper into the topic and discovered some surprising and extremely valuable things.
I can’t tell you what to focus on to bring success in your career, but I can show you how to focus. By itself, this may just mean you just get better at doing marginally productive things. However, if you use your increased efficiency to carve out space to think, reflect, and plan, incredible advances become possible.
Unless you’re starting from a place of extreme laziness, you can’t get 10x results from working 10x longer. There’s only 24 hours in a day and you have to eat and sleep at some point, and most people can only really be productive for some fraction of their waking hours
However, if that fraction is really focused on the right things, there’s no stopping you.
Attention is your most valuable resource, and focus is your most valuable skill.
This is far more important than any tactic or tip I might share with you. If you internalize this and act on it consistently, you’re virtually guaranteed to make progress However, if you want to make progress FAST, stay tuned for the next post, where I start getting into the juicy specifics that took me years to learn.