How does Focus work?

If you’re interested in personal performance like me, no doubt you’ve read a lot about focus and energy management the last few years. New Studies claim that focus and willpower is like a tank of gas that runs dry if you use it to much during the day. Other New Studies shows that meditation (the practice of focusing and refocusing for short periods of time) increases focus.

So which is it? How does focus work? I think their both right.

Focus seems to work very much like a muscle, if you deliberately practice it, you can focus deeper and with more control (i.e. it gets easier to start and stop focusing). But it also seems to work a lot like endurance, the more time you spend focused, the less mental energy you’ll have at the end of the day.

Which is why I try to focus deliberately, constantly nudging myself when I get distracted, and take resting very seriously. You can’t work with perfect focus forever. You might be able to effect how much you can focus, but always be aware of your limits. When I step beyond my limits, I get annoyed, cranky, feel frustrated about not getting anywhere, and spend even more energy that I don’t have. It’s a slippery slope.

How do you manage your focus?

Wake up and stop wasting time

Sometimes you just need a swift kick in the ass. Sometimes, you need some brutal truth:

You need to have one of those moments where you stop justifying time-wasters. Where you stop justifying playing small. Where you stop justifying spending time with the wrong people. Where you stop doing business with the wrong people. Where you stop being immature with your money and your relationships.

So how to we do this? This is how:

Research has clearly shown that the avoidance of failure undermines intrinsic motivation. Put bluntly, if you’re trying to avoid failure, you’re focused on the wrong things. And you can’t win long-term in life this way.

Stop avoiding failure. Stop focusing on the outcomes, but instead focus on the work itself. If you're interested, this is the research referenced.

Why minimalism is a meta skill

Cultivating a selective focus is the only way to make real progress towards your goals in life. This is an excellent article by James Clear based around investment advice by Warren Buffet. Advice doesn't get much better than this.

The key point is this:
Your odds of success improve when you are forced to direct all of your energy and attention to fewer tasks.
— James Clear