What focus means…

“Steve was the most remarkably focused person I’ve ever met in my life,” Ive said. “And the thing with focus is, it’s not this thing you aspire to, or you decide on Monday, ‘You know, I’m going to be focused.’ It is a every minute, ‘Why are we talking about this? This is what we’re working on.’ You can achieve so much when you truly focus.”

He added: “What focus means is saying no to something that with every bone in your body think is a phenomenal idea, and you wake up thinking about it, but you end up saying no to it because you’re focusing on something else.

Jonathan Ive on what he learned about focus from Steve Jobs.

I have never been good at this, always distracted by another shiny thing but something about the purity of this kind of focus has a deep, visceral appeal. Not sure why.

This is the first in a short series looking at what focus means and how to get more of it.

Thoughts for today:

Focus is less about choosing one thing to concentrate on and much more about saying no to 100 other things.

And it’s not an added extra. If everything is a priority then nothing is a priority.

 

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Two quick tips for unpleasant jobs

2013-07-08_young-smile

This’ll only take 30 seconds.

I really love doing this.

January can be a drag and somehow all those irritating jobs which come with living seem worse in the grey cold. So here’s a couple of things you can try because sometimes a spoonful of sugar does make the medicine go down.

Have you ever put off a job – piles of washing up, clearing garden rubbish, vacuuming the car – only to surprise yourself how quick it was, once you started? You know, the jobs where if you’d just got on with it instead of agonising about it, it would be done in half the time?

Try this. Next time you look askance at the washing up pile, say firmly to yourself (or even out loud) It only takes 30 seconds to wash these up. or This’ll only take 30 seconds. Try it. You might surprise yourself.

Of course I know it takes more than 30 seconds but not much more if you plunge in and get on with it. Somehow the reassurance of a quick task makes it easier to plunge in.

And for added sparkle – I love doing this.

Scenario 1 – there you are, bent over the toilet with a brush. Your mouth is grim, your shoulders tight. Your internal dialogue grumbling away in a diatribe about crappy jobs, the cold and the fact that someone else in your house should be doing this. Not pretty is it?

Scenario 2 – there you are, brush in hand, saying to yourself This only takes 30 seconds and scrubbing away, I love doing this. For added benefit you can even smile.

Those jobs will be over in a trice.

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A light in the darkness

Light

For years the priests had copied the words. As each scroll wore out they’d make a new one, copying the words they knew meant hope:

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.

But what did they mean and where was this hope? Centuries passed. Where was the God of the old stories? Were they even true?

Two hundred, three hundred years went by. A foreign power invaded and looked as if they were there to stay. Darkness stole over the land, hope faded. Nothing from God. Radio silence.

The bureaucracy of these invaders turned the land upside down. Everyone had to travel to their ancestors village to register so the state could tax them. One young couple, among others made homeless by politics, set off.

They cover a distance equal to the journey from Newcastle to London, on foot. (A donkey is a later addition to the story.) Walking from village to village or sleeping in the open, the days are hot but the nights bitter. And she’s pregnant.

Arriving at their destination, the inn is full but there’s a cow shed. The innkeeper’s not heartless but what can he do, the woman is about to give birth. She goes into labour. We don’t know who delivers the baby — her husband or the village midwife perhaps. It’s cold and refugees from the displacement fill every room. They wrap the baby in some cloth and lay him in the feeding trough to keep him warm.

To the puzzlement of both parents some shepherds interrupt them. They’ve come looking for a new baby on the strength of a light they’ve seen out on the hills. The shepherds kneel by the small child then go away, wondering.

Someone takes pity on the little family and invites them into a home in the village. A bit later some Persian astrologers also come to the house in search of the child. Led there, they say, by a new light in the sky. They leave money and embalming spices when they go. His mother wonders what this all means.

The parents faith requires them to take the child on another long journey. They have to take him to the temple so they can perform a ritual to dedicate him to God. An elderly priest, who sees the child, says he will be a great leader and save his people. But this will have serious consequences for his parents. ‘A sword will pierce your heart’, is how he describes it to the child’s mother.

Back home, with a toddler now, life refuses to leave them alone. They have to flee, again, because the local king has heard of their son. People have been whispering about a child who will be king, and he is paranoid. “Kill the child” he orders.

But the family have gone. In their rage, and fearful of displeasing their employer, the soldiers slaughter all the baby boys in the village.

So God comes to His world. A light in the darkness. Not to a palace, not to a clean, sterile hospital. In the dirt of village life, among the poor of a conquered country.

Much later, someone remembers the old prophecy:

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.

When the child grew, He said this about Himself – “I am the light of the world”.

They killed Him for this claim.

But it’s the kind of light you can’t extinguish with nails.

Happy Christmas.

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Finished eating? Wash your bowl.

It’s the idea that you take care of the right things in the moment. Not later. Not tomorrow.

No, right now.

When you finish eating, you wash your bowl right away. When you finish writing on your computer, you close all your application windows. When you’re done working for the day, you clear your desk.

If you’ve been with us for a while you will notice that it’s very similar to our popular Clearing To Neutral habit. It’s when you clear things and set things up for next time, so you make it easy for your future-self to get started. This minimizes friction which makes it harder for procrastination to kick in.

Clearing to Neutral is a hipster version of your parents telling you to put one toy away before you get another one out. Still good advice though.

The next time you’re about to finish something, just say “wash your bowl”. It’s catchy, easy to remember and it can act like a trigger to initiate your Clearing to Neutral habit.

Read the whole thing over at Asian efficiency

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Could ‘Do What You Love’ be the worst advice?

Picture credit: Jessica

Miya Tokumitsu looks at the popularity of ‘Do What You Love’ as career and life advice and has some hard questions:

There’s little doubt that “do what you love” (DWYL) is now the unofficial work mantra for our time. The problem is that it leads not to salvation, but to the devaluation of actual work, including the very work it pretends to elevate?— and more importantly, the dehumanization of the vast majority of laborers.

Do What You Love can distract us from the real business of earning a living wage and, worse, become a tool for exploitation:

According to this way of thinking, labor is not something one does for compensation, but an act of self-love. If profit doesn’t happen to follow, it is because the worker’s passion and determination were insufficient. Its real achievement is making workers believe their labor serves the self and not the marketplace.

Do What You Love excludes those who, for whatever reason, cannot follow their heart:

One consequence of this isolation is the division that DWYL creates among workers, largely along class lines. Work becomes divided into two opposing classes: that which is lovable (creative, intellectual, socially prestigious) and that which is not (repetitive, unintellectual, undistinguished). Those in the lovable work camp are vastly more privileged in terms of wealth, social status, education, society’s racial biases, and political clout, while comprising a small minority of the workforce.

For those forced into unlovable work, it’s a different story. Under the DWYL credo, labor that is done out of motives or needs other than love (which is, in fact, most labor) is not only demeaned but erased.

Hop across to read the whole article for some robust challenges to the way DWYL has become a tool for those who wish to exploit people working for love.

Her conclusion:

In masking the very exploitative mechanisms of labor that it fuels, DWYL is, in fact, the perfect ideological tool of capitalism. It shunts aside the labor of others and disguises our own labor to ourselves. It hides the fact that if we acknowledged all of our work as work, we could set appropriate limits for it, demanding fair compensation and humane schedules that allow for family and leisure time.

And if we did that, more of us could get around to doing what it is we really love.

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Immediate rewards better than long term goals

Autumn Leaves

In a fascinating article on motivations for exercise, Jane Brody looks at some research into helping people maintain their motivation to exercise, a subject close to my heart:

Though it seems counterintuitive, studies have shown that people whose goals are weight loss and better health tend to spend the least amount of time exercising. That is true even for older adults, a study of 335 men and women ages 60 to 95 showed.

Rather, immediate rewards that enhance daily life — more energy, a better mood, less stress and more opportunity to connect with friends and family — offer far more motivation, Dr. Segar and others have found.

Instead of seeing exercise as a kind of self-punishment for past failure, why not see it as part of the way you take care of yourself:

Citing a “paradox of self-care,” Dr. Segar wrote, “The more energy you give to caring for yourself, the more energy you have for everything else.” She suggests viewing physical activity as a power source for everything else you want to accomplish. “What sustains us, we sustain,” she wrote.

Read the rest of the article here

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Not the only way

Edward Bear, bumping

Whatever you’re facing at the moment, I guarantee there’s another way. If only you could stop bumping for a moment and think of it…

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