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?

Blood clot watch

In January on 2019 I was shocked to find myself with a foot long blood clot in my upper thigh to lower abdomen. Deep vein thrombosis usually affects people in their senior years, and correlates pretty well with being overweight and smoking.

I’m fitness athlete thin and I’ve never smoked. I was 34.

I’ve been on blood thinners ever since, and my body is supposed to solve the issue without any direct intervention. Since the blood clot is a partial blockage of a vein, we apparently don’t measure the clot itself, that would be too costly for the free healthcare system of Sweden. Instead we measure the circumference of the leg. The swelling should correlate pretty accurately with the remaining size of the clot.

Being the person I am, I naturally measured my leg every morning to track any progress. I figured it’s worth sharing. This is my blod clot watch, updated daily. When the blue line hits the bottom of the chart, I should be back to normal. The red line is a trailing average of 7 days to help show the progress.

What are you optimizing for?

A thought struck me today while rushing from the my doctors appointment to my office. I was listening to a podcast and checking out the stock market. I was distracting myself from a pretty dreary subway ride. But I was also using the time to be productive, plan out my tasks for the afternoon so that I could optimise my time.

Todo lists. Email. Quick meetings. Lunch at your desk. 6 minute abs. Fast Food. It’s all about optimising our time. Finding a way to cram more stuff into our days.

The thought that struck me was; what am we optimizing for?

One day you will be scanning the headlines and listening to a podcast in 2x the speed, and that will be it. That was life. Optimised to the extreme. Forcedly pushed into ever longer caffeinated days. But optimised for what?

I think I’ll take my dog for a slow walk. After that I might have a glass of wine with the love of my life. Maybe call my mom. But whatever I do tonight, it will be because I wanted to, and unoptimised.

Blood clot

During Christmas break I ate too much and drank too much. Like most people in Sweden, Christmas is a time for gluttony. And being a recovering compulsive eater, I’m not exactly holding back.

To counter the unhealthily lifestyle I hit the gym a lot as well. Nothing makes extra room for cookies and chocolate like a few sets of heavy deadlifts.

This year though, I felt over exerted. I felt drained come New Years. And when I woke up on New Year’s Day with a throbbing right hip and thigh I sort of shrugged it off and knew I’d get back to normal in a few days. Coming back to healthy food and rest would solve it. It always had.

Only this time. It didn’t.

This time, my right leg swelled up to cartoonish proportions. I still assumed this was due to over exertion, and just did a bit of stretching and took it easy. Three days in though, my life partner Agnes started getting worried. She convinced me to call the health hotline, and in less than an hour we were waiting at the emergency room. A blood test later and I was injected with blood thinners, told to take a taxi home for the night and be back early for an ultra sound of my thigh.

Turns out I have a 20-25cm blood clot through my thigh into my hip, and possibly a malformed vein in my hip. I’m now on blood thinners and trying to come to terms with the fact that this will change my short term life dramatically.

Normally blood clots affect people at 60 to 80 years of age, with more risk if they smoke and are over weight.

Not really that common in 34 years olds who eat fitness diets and lift heavy weights as a lifestyle.

But I guess I beat the odds on that one.

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2018 in review

2018 was a life changing year for me. In the last days of 2017 I met Agnes, whom I instantly fell hopelessly in love with. Something I’ve never experienced before.

I quickly changed my plans for 2018, cancelled trips, got a year long consultancy. I’d be staying in Sweden for 2018. And I haven’t regretted it, though I dislike the cold intensely.

A year is hard to boil down, so I’ve split this review into three sections, enjoy.

Timeline of Events

What I learned

Fitness & Health

Timeline of Events

Spring

January was a blur of rapid changes. Setting myself up to be with Agnes. I also gave a talk on the Ethics of Design at a major networks offices in Stockholm. It was well received.

February was spent celebrated my mothers 70th birthday and working like mad to put my own projects on hold, while getting to grips on my client project.

In March I was the sole witness to my friends wedding, they wanted a small one, and I’m incredibly grateful to have been there.

April my client took off to Rome for a conference, Agnes joined us for the last day and a half. It’s my second time in Rome and I love it. The history nut in me is excited about everything, and the food is fabulous.

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Summer

The summer of 2018 was generally considered to be the best summer in Sweden for a hundred years. I’ve certainly never experienced anything like it. For a solid four months we had sun and warmth. It was epic, but it also lead to overheating offices and a lot of summer colds. Agnes spent our two week vacation in a fever.

In May some friends from 500 startups visited Stockholm, it was great to reconnect and hear about life inside the US startup world again.

In June Sweden is never really dark, it’s a magical time. I did a lot of great work when everyone else was trying to find refuge from the heat, and we even managed to go sailing. Something I’ve been yearning to get back to.

July was a furnace of heat, which we spent living on the balcony. Walking the dog as early and late possible so he wouldn’t over heat, and visiting the archipelago.

When August rolled in and the evenings started darkening again I could hardly believe how much fun I’d had over the summer. We lived on that balcony until it was cool enough to go to sleep for almost two months. it was beautiful.


Fall

As the shadows lengthened work picked up speed again in Sweden. The fall was a lovely cavalcade of colors, and in September we spent some time in the archipelago enjoying autumn and feeding the little dog too many hotdogs. I did a Netcast about the Future with a couple of friends of mine.

On our first date, we talked about Oktober Fest in Munich. So when oktober rolled around, we went and had an absolute blast. We made sure to visit Neuschwanstein when we were in the area. If you haven’t seen Bavaria in the late summer or early fall… You should. It’s like a fairytale.


Winter

I don’t like the cold and the dark. In fact I get colds easily and slightly depressed. Thankfully Agnes kept me awake and excited about Christmas. Which was amazing (the dog did not like it though). I also had the opportunity inn November to visit Marbella for a workshop with a Swedish startup. That was a very welcome respit from the dark.


What I learned

Over the year I’ve discovered many ideas and had several insights that I’d like to share. Some of them are rediscoveries, which is both amusing and slightly worrying. I’ve detailed most of them on my life strategies page. This is the broad strokes summary:

Consumption and wasting time is extremely comfortable. But mostly time we will regret spending. Most consumption will not create memories for life, but rather just tick some minutes away. Stepping back from consumption completely can show which is which. And give you time to create, which is my next point.

Creating is always scary. More than anything else, I spend a ton of time trying to prepare myself for the real work. This is simply just procrastination. You cannot be prepared to create, or do real work. You just have to do it. I’m going to try to be aware of this during 2019, and really ship work.

Learning is fun. And anything that is fun can be used to distract yourself from the real work. Are you sure you need to learn more before doing the thing you’re putting off? More often than not, the answer is no. Just do it.

Love is rare so enjoy it. Beauty is not, so enjoy that too. Life does not need to be a grind. Anything can be beautiful and we can even learn to love the hardest work.


Fitness & Health

If you’ve followed me over the years, you’ve probably noticed that I spend a lot of time and energy on fitness. I used to be heavily overweight in my teens and have had problems with food and health ever since. But in 2018 I can proudly say I’ve been both healthier and fitter than ever before. The journey is never over, and I’m excited about 2019 in this regard too.