It’s tough when it feels like we’re falling behind.
I’ve often wondered why it’s worth it at all — to put in all this time and energy, for few results, and little to no traction.
People aren’t interested enough.
Everyone else is a million times more talented anyway.
The industry seems to be getting more and more competitive. Is there even a need for another voice?
These results and these questions make us doubt ourselves. With fewer wins, our motivation slows. This makes it less likely that we will put in energised work to create the momentum we need.
We worry, and we panic. And this leads to making even worse, foggy decisions, creating a downward spiral…
What’s the root of the problem here, and how can we get past this?
My answer is that we make things harder for ourselves by trying to do too much.
We are smitten by ever-expanding choice.
We are buying jam, sour snakes, yoghurt, and peaches when we only came to buy a carton of milk.
Being humans, we tend to be awful at restricting choice in the interest of tackling any one thing.
Many of us spread ourselves thin. On top of this, we have more options that are more alluring, distracting and addictive.
We end up neglecting the few things that require the biggest piece of our hearts and minds.
How do we make ourselves better at focusing on what’s important?
Do we need more discipline?
I always thought I wasn’t disciplined enough.
But this is a myth. We all have discipline. We might have fantastic discipline at watching videos online every day or showing up for breakfast every morning, but poor discipline for making progress in our work.
We don’t need more discipline than we already have. We just need to know where to direct it every day.
And that’s what successful people do.
They direct their attention to the few things that really matter.
In doing so, they can gain a considerable advantage over the majority, who are running around like confused, headless geese.
They prioritise what is important over what is urgent, and do the important things, even if it doesn’t always feel like the right time.
My problem was that my focus was scattered. I did things, but it was aimless because I wasn’t making consistent highest-priority decisions.
I didn’t grasp the idea that success is about doing the right thing, not about doing lots of things right.
I realised that I wasn’t making the highest-priority decisions consistently.
And how do you know what your biggest priorities should be?
Your priorities must be the things that bring you to life.
Not things you feel you should do; or things that make you look good; or things that your family say you should do.
The things that bring you to life.
Those things that are valuable to you. Those things that create a spark in you. Those things that make you emotional, even if it takes some time to get warmed up. Those things that aren’t always easy, but help you grow in character.
Nothing else matters.
Successful people focus on doing what they value the most, and they minimise the rest.
“If your to-do list contains everything, then it’s probably taking you everywhere but where you really want to go.” ~ Gary Keller
And yes, this means saying NO to a LOT of the stuff you like the idea of, but that comes secondary to the one or two things that matter the most.
It means putting back the sour snakes, the peaches, the yoghurt, and the jam when you know that you came for milk.
They know that doing more of these kinds of things is what will bring people to them. It’s what will create an emotional connection, break through the noise, and lead to raving fans.
It’s what will also bring the most profound fulfilment.
“There is nothing we can create that is of tremendous value to ourselves, that others would not be willing to pay for.”
Successful people don’t allow that focus to fizzle out. They keep it going relentlessly.
They do the things that can be done every day. Anything that cannot be done daily is — in my view — not a priority worth pursuing anyway.
Day in and day out.
Staying focused on the right things is what leads to success. Focus is like holding the magnifying glass in place until there is fire.
Consistent focus is more important than talent, intelligence and your connections combined.
Most of us are too stuck in the other stuff. We complicate things. We try to do too much.
We worry that if we stay with one thing, we’ll get bored. And we do. But as long as you go deep into something; be patient; explore; introduce new connections, and allow that thing to evolve, you will not be bored in the long-run.
Writing blog posts over a decade ago, I thought I’d run out of ideas, but the more I committed to writing them, the more ideas that flowed to me. Now it seems like there’s an endless chasm of ideas waiting to be uncovered.
Even so, there have been many times when I’ve lost the ball; forgotten the path, and was blind to what mattered. And that’s when I allowed my momentum to fizzle out.
So I knew I needed to make better, more focused decisions consistently.
I needed to identify the one single thing I ensured happened every day without fail:
- Write and publish an article per day.
…And the handful of other high priority tasks to include in my day, every day:
- Spend at least one hour writing fiction.
- Do one thing to progress my online business a step further other than writing articles.
I needed to make sure that certain times of the day were blocked off to focus on these high-priority things, with no distractions:
*I don’t get too strict with cut off times, because sometimes I want to start earlier, or continue a little longer, but without a rough time, I’d be more inclined to allow excuses and distractions to seep in.
- A designated time block for rapid writing and idea-generation (around* 9.30am — 12pm).
- A designated time block for writing fiction (around* 4pm — 6pm).
- Time block for business admin (around* 2pm — 3.30pm).
I needed a method to ensure these time blocks were spent as effectively as possible, to maximise this high priority work:
- Use the Pomodoro (20-minute writing limits) technique for writing sprints, leading to increased word quantity and better ideas.
- Turn off the Internet, smartphone, and other distractions and notifications during time blocks.
- Have an article-writing strategy, using questions I can follow to come up with better ideas that result in more impactful articles.
So, to break through the noise; to gain that ‘unfair’ advantage; to build traction, focus on doing the right thing consistently, over doing lots of things right.
The accumulation of little wins will build into an electrical avalanche that people won’t help but notice.
Follow the Red Lemon Club newsletter for more ideas like these, but also follow to find out when my new planner (Book of Lift) will be ready, which was explicitly designed to help you take daily action on what matters the most. It’s coming soon.