The art – and power – of focus

The underrated success factor we need this year

Happy New Year!

I recently read a report on employees’ expectations toward remote or smart working which stated that millenials are the most demanding, pampered generation to date. Being a (proud) millenial myself, my initial reaction was something similar to “what?!“.

Upon further reflection though, the article is right. Never before have we had so many opportunities to design our lives according to our own personal wishes. Our grandparents had but a few options, more or less: corporate career, learn a trade or housewife.

Thanks to technology, the internet and the global economy, we can pretty much study at any university, work from anywhere, or not work for a while, or even move around the globe freely (to most countries at least). You get dizzy with all the opportunities out there to earn money on the internet outside of your job: Subscriptions, Patreon, Amazon Affiliate programs, YouTube, Shopify, side gigs etc.

But where do all these possibilities leave us?

Don’t we sometimes find ourselves putting too much on our plates, working on too many things at once and diffusing our concentrations and efforts?

As we enter this new year, new perspectives and energy may lead to many new ideas, plans and dreams. It’s easy to diversify and keep busy, working on various endeavors or projects at once.

“One of them will turn out to be my big break / a huge success…” we may tell ourselves.

Or “I just have so many interests!”

You might have heard this before: Multi-tasking is not possible without the quality of the output suffering immensely. Similarly, spreading your focus across too many ventures also minimizes the quality or success considerably.

This is where focus comes in. Focus is an essential skill we have de-prioritized in the past decade or so. In many ways, our current social-digital culture has discouraged us by demanding our time and interaction (thank you Instagram, Slack and co).

Today we have access to so many people, cultures and ways of living, we also get inspired by everyone else’s life. Endless possibilities, all these things we could be doing.

Here’s a wake-up call: Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

Before the holidays we had our first community workshop, kicking off starting a new project in 2022. We discussed how the 3Ps of Passion, Perseverance and Planning are key to realizing this.

Focus plays a key role in this as well. A new endeavor needs the time and energy to be thought through, processed, developed and implemented. There will be times where it needs your undivided attention, and times where you get surprised by an aha moment under the shower, digesting your thoughts without knowing it.

This focus-digestion cycle is crucial to creating something new.

But our lives are so scheduled and crammed, many of us feel we can’t bring all our work, hobbies and interests under one hat. Or do we really need to make every little one of our interests into an endeavor or full scale project?

It’s time we move away from the 2010’s mantra of more is more and allow ourselves the breathing room that comes with focus. Less is more is not only something minimalists proclaim, but is also an important principle for ambitious creatives. (Here, also, ambitious should not mean many things at once.)

Give it a try

In the new year, I invite you to focus on only two endeavors or projects and putting in the time, dedication, thought and energy to making these two truly great. For example that could be your full-time job and one smaller side project.

At the end of March, the first quarter of the year, evaluate these two focus areas. Did more focus yield better results after three months? Congrats! – Keep practicing focus.

Do you need to optimize or maybe even let go of a project that didn’t turn out to be worthy of your time after all? Congrats, also! – You saved yourself what would have been many more months if you had spread the same time and energy over multiple endeavors. You can put that energy into a new one.

We have more possibilities open to us than ever before. True. But I’d rather experiment with focus to find my own path than get lost and anxious in the process of trying to do everything at once. My focus this year will be writing. Let me know how I’m doing along the way, dear reader 😉

Stay curious!
Désirée Bambynek

Image courtesy of Cameron Ballard