Energy and attention are finite.
Energy and attention are a finite resource. They run out easily.
Energy and attention are directly funded by the amount of sleep and rest an individual gets, both of which are notoriously thin in today’s world.
This is why most people will never be successful; most people’s lives are set up to drain energy and attention.
Most people barely have enough energy and attention to make it through their busy days.
What little sleep and rest they get provides just enough attention and energy to maintain this inefficient status quo (and often these energy and attention reserves run out, resulting in burnouts and breakdowns).
If you want to experience true, lasting success in any area of your life — family, relationships, career, finances, health, personal projects — you need to learn how to fill up your energy “tank” more efficiently. After that, learn how to channel your energy properly.
Most people have constantly low energy reserves, and worse still, they misspend these reserves in inefficient and wasteful ways.
Here are three undeniable energy-wasters you need to quit now in order to start channeling your energy and attention productively and purposefully.
Multitasking is a “skill” many people like to think they have. But the truth is, multitasking doesn’t work.
In his book Deep Work: Rules For Focused Success in a Distracted World, Cal Newport discusses the concept of “attention drag.” Essentially, for every different task we switch to (social media > email > side projects > writing > back to email), our attention “drags” a little.
For every task, a little bit of our attention is left behind, leaving us less and less to work with.
To illustrate, imagine you have 5 tasks to do:
- Check your email
- Write an article
- Research some strategies for your business
- Post on social media
- ….Watch YouTube.
Most people think each task will take, say, 10% of your energy.
10% x 5 = 50%, right?
Wrong. Research shows signs that the action of switching tasks itself actually costs attention.
If you spend 10% of your energy checking email, an additional 2% or so is “dragged” behind as you switch tasks. Over time, this “drag” might make up an entire portion of your attention and energy.
That’s “multitasking” for you.
Instead of multitasking, spend uninterrupted and intensely focused periods of time on one or two projects.
Think less time + enormous intensity.
Many of the most successful people in the world finish the entire day’s work in 3–5 hours, because they channel intense focus into their most important tasks.
This is the “deep work” structure, and it provides an excellent framework for reducing attention drag and channeling your energy effectively.
2. “Good” Opportunities
“If it’s not a ‘hell yeah!’ it’s a no.” -Derek Sivers
You need to say “no” more.
There is no shortage of “good” opportunities that come your way. The types of opportunities that make you say, “This could be fun” or “Yeah, let’s see how this goes.”
The danger of these particular opportunities is that they take away your precious energy reserves for projects that don’t really matter. Sure, the extra cash from taking on a few more hours a week to help someone out might be nice, but is it worth it?
From the big picture, it’s not. We’re talking about your legacy here — what your life will mean when you look back on it. What you’ll be remembered for.
You can’t achieve your deepest and most meaningful work while you’re distracted doing sundry little projects that cost more than they’re worth.
When my wife and I moved to South Korea to teach English, I began saying “no” to almost every opportunity that came my way. It was astounding how many things wanted my attention.
I said no to podcasts creators, a basketball coaching opportunity, more (overtime-paid) hours at work, high-paying private tutoring sessions, playing the drums for a local church, and remote career coaching gigs, to name a few.
I said no because these were all “good” opportunities — but they weren’t “great.”
My legacy — writing and creating my own business — needs all the time, energy, and attention I can spare. I’m not willing to take away precious energy reserves I could dedicate towards creating my ultimate life, even if you want to pay me $50 an hour just to teach Korean kids how to say “rebound” and “free throw.”
You need to say no to opportunities that are just “good.”
Only say yes to great ones.
3. Relations With the Wrong People
Behind all those “good” opportunities are the people offering it. And like their opportunities, often these people are the “wrong” people for you right now.
That’s not to say they’re bad people who don’t deserve your time (although some undoubtedly are). But maintaining relations with individuals that seek to monopolize your time to promote their projects is bad when you’re busy working on your own legacy.
The narrower your vision for your future, the wider the “wrong people” category.
The most potent and true success is narrowly defined and undiluted, and it not muddied by a variety of “side” projects and the people involved.
Steve Jobs wasn’t focused on making iPhones, smart watches, and Macbook pro’s in the 80’s; he was entirely focused on getting a computer in every house.
Michael Jordan wasn’t focused on shoe deals or side businesses in the 90’s; he was entirely focused on winning the NBA championship (which he did 6 times in 7 years).
If you are focused on your friend’s podcast, your brother-in-law’s screenplay, your blog, half-marathon training, and your full-time job, your attention is divided too many times to allow yourself to be effective.
Better to master a select few projects than simply “be involved” in many without making real progress.
Your energy and attention reserves are precious.
I want every spare moment I have to be spent on my most important projects: spending quality time with my wife, writing, creating my business, and exercising.
I can maximize my energy by removing energy-wasters like senseless multitasking, tiring relationships with people out of my inner circle, and saying no to merely “good” projects.
Said Warren Buffet: “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”
Engage in deep work and focus all your energy and attention on select projects.
Sever ties with individuals who are not helping you move forward.
Say no to merely “good” opportunities. Don’t worry — you’ll be glad you did when the “great opportunity” comes along.
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