Living a focused life
It’s never too late to learn.
Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash
Why, you might ask, have I invested in a 4-week course about a focused life?
It began with the discovery of a wonderful web site which I found a year or so ago called The Sweet Setup. As they say, with the right apps and workflows you can improve your focus and productivity. I’m a sucker for such promises and have spent far too much time over the years, exploring software guaranteeing change because I’m curious and love the discovery part of the process. It first manifested itself at school with the revision timetable.
What was that dearest?
Over the years, Donna has patiently listened with one ear as I wax lyrical about some great features before she knowingly returns to her paper to-do list. She’s not so swayed by the shiny, shiny, at least not when we’re talking about productivity. (I’ve just heard that paper to-dos are no longer de rigueur in Donna’s focused life, recently being replaced by the Notes app on her phone).
Really smart applications
Shawn Blanc, the very nice man and self-confessed nerd behind my favourite sweet shop has also sorted the wheat from the chaff, by only providing courses for the best of the best apps. These functional nuggets of delight are often free or have a low entry cost for a single user like me. I’m yet to be disappointed with any of his recommendations.
I almost began to feel a bit guilty. Their free write-ups and videos are really helpful and I’ve been enjoying some of the benefits of their recommends without giving his web site a penny. (A quick example is in the writing of this newsletter, which starts off life on a blank page in Ulysses, a writing app for the Mac).
When I briefly mentioned my praise and guilt to Shawn, on the kick off to the Focused Life course, the irony wasn’t lost on either of us. He was, after all, only having to listen to me briefly because I was now a fee paying customer on his course.
During my first 30 working years, I attended my fair share of courses. It dried up when we started our own business because we could no longer afford them and more importantly, we didn’t have time.
My training has varied from the technical complexities of frying a 2oz McDonald’s patty on a griddle, selling batteries to corner shops and learning how to SPIN, the cycle of questions which decision maker’s should be asked when making a sale. Back in the eighties and nineties, who hadn’t heard of Myers-Briggs and the potential benefits of personality labelling when it came to being managed by your boss, fitting into a team and speaking with techies who wouldn’t normally understand you apparently.
Personal Knowledge Management (PKM)
Prior to signing up for my focused life, I’d assuaged any guilt by paying for Shawn’s PKM course on Obsidian, a smart replacement for Evernote which I’d stuck with for many years. I’ve been collecting my memories in order to write my autobiography as a legacy for the children. It’s pebble-in-the-pond thinking as I’d like to leave a ripple or two behind when I’m gone.
If you’re lucky enough to still be around and would like a read, feel free to ask me and I’ll add you to the list. I’m planning to publish while I’m fit and healthy so the odds are you will be able to read even if you can’t chew.
My previous efforts with productivity software only ever got me so far. It also felt like a good opportunity to invest time, understanding the potential benefits on offer, embracing a more holistic view. I want to try and avoid regret if I can, in the evenings of my life. As an aspiring, healthy nonagenarian, I have precious years now to enjoy a focused life with my wife (I had to get that in). And biographies don’t write themselves. I also thought of our kids and how it might help them? I’m even more convinced now that it would, but selling soul searching questions and the art of planning to a bunch of young adults is not going to be easy.
What is a focused life?
It isn’t a series of quick fixes and fancy tricks using nifty software. It’s also so much more than incremental gains in productivity and efficiency in your day to day work.
As a noun the Cambridge English dictionary defines focus as the central point of something. As a verb, it’s to give your full attention to what you are doing or what is happening.
There are two aspects to a focused life which are well detailed here. You need to address the why, your life’s purpose, values and goals. Then the how, which are your daily habits, calendar and to-do list. A focused life exists when you are able to combine your goals with your habits.
Here’s an obvious overused example which I’ve been struggling with for years. I want to get fitter, stronger and more flexible (goal). It’s far more likely to become a reality if I develop a habit, going to the gym 3-times a week. By block booking it into my calendar, the inertia slowly ebbs over time and it becomes a good habit. You even begin to look forward to it, especially when Donna attends the same class. It gets a little competitive.
I’ve never been on a date night, but now I’m discussing which day of the week we should choose. As newly weds, our connecting and bonding quotient is unsurprisingly high. What a great time to develop a new habit and block book it into the calendar while it’s so easy.
Habits are mighty powerful and can be forces for good and evil. If you want to discover more about them, there’s a wonderful book by James Clear called Atomic Habits, it’s a quick read and worth every page.
Must dash, I’m off to the gym.
Great post. Unlearning and relearning - -for adults -can be a big part of focus too in my experience.
Time You Enjoy Wasting
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