Being able to intentionally direct your attention at will not only save you time, but money (see: attention economy).
- Mainstream news outlets monetize your attention through fear.
- Social media accounts steal your attention through “relatable” and often self-deprecating memes.
- Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook know exactly what colors, topics, and content delivery style make you tick.
- There is always something to fill the void that comes with boredom.
- Just now, I clicked over to check my Twitter notifications.
From a top down point of view, this is the big problem that the modern world faces.
In terms of mental health, people focus on their thoughts instead of the reason behind the thoughts.
In terms of physical health, people focus on short term pleasure instead of long term energy.
In terms of monetary health, people focus on get rich quick schemes instead of sustainable business growth.
We aren’t here to talk about these. We are here to talk about focused work, but you can see the problem that the attention economy has created.
Focus is a currency and we must invest it wisely.
Minimum Risk, Potential Reward
The attention economy is only disastrous if you are on the consumer end.
Opportunities are springing up like weeds and in order to take advantage of them, you need to produce.
You need to focus your attention on building something with minimal risk, but with the potential to pay off big.
These are called asymmetric bets.
Some opportunities that have popped up in the last 5-10 years (that you can still take advantage of):
- Building a social media audience
- Offering a niche freelance service
- Starting a marketing agency
- Productizing your expertise and selling it online
- Starting a podcast or blog
4 years ago I started freelancing with web design. This takes zero dollars and some time on YouTube to do, but has the potential of replacing your income.
1.5 years ago I started a Twitter account that has grown to 40,000 followers and allowed me to transition out of done for you client work.
Now I am in the starting phases of a blog, YouTube channel, and podcast. Given I follow the right formula, I have no doubt that these will pay off big.
The Formula: Menial upfront investment + persistence + iteration = exponential reward.
My success, however large/small it is, was entirely built off of asymmetric bets.
What was the vessel responsible for the results? Focused work.
That is, investing my focus into the attention economy’s stock market by adding value to the world, 1 hour at a time.
4 Hours Is More Than You Think
My good friend Joey (@heyjoeyjustice) is a psychological performance coach.
He along with many others have shown that through focus, you can slash your work times in half.
You can get more done in 4 hours of focused work than you can in 8 hours of distracted work.
Hell, even 1 hour of focused work can pay off nicely, especially for those with other time-consuming obligations.
To get started with your bet there is a prerequisite.
You must have interests or curiosities that you want to pursue. It will be very difficult to find opportunities to cash in on if you are not actively learning.
Once you have learned, you must implement in the real world.
Joey’s 3 Steps For Getting Into Focused Work
Before we start – grab a physical notebook and a pen/pencil.
Step 1) Brain Dump
This serves two purposes:
- Clear your mind of internal distractions (thoughts and ideas)
- Know the exact tasks you need to complete for a given project
Go crazy with this, write out everything that comes to mind. This is not limited to “work.”
Write down everything from household todo’s to this weeks shopping list (along with what you have to do for “work”).
Step 2) Categorize & Prioritize
Create categories for tasks to fall under:
- Social growth
- Product promotion
- Outreach for freelancing
- Client work
To prioritize, consider using The Eisenhower Matrix
If you cannot decide if something is a priority or not, flip a coin. Not knowing if its a priority or not usually means its not a priority. Flip a coin and save yourself some mental strain.
You should come away with 2-5 tasks in each category that you have to work on within the next few days.
Step 3) Time Blocking & Scheduling
You know what you need to do, now is the time to set it in stone. Scheduling time blocks prepares your brain for action.
Take 10 minutes to pop your tasks into your calendar or favorite planner.
Use the Pomodoro method when working – 50 minutes of focus, 10 minutes of active rest (get out of your chair).
Start small and increase your workload. Start with 1-2 hours, build the habit, and increase accordingly.
Scheduling your time blocks should not take any more than 15 minutes a week.
Joey’s Rapid Fire Tips For Maintaining Focus
Step 1) Increase Clarity by Decreasing Uncertainty
- Fight, flight or freeze – without clarity, you will not fight.
- This is accomplished by going through steps 1-3 above again.
Tip 2) Remove Distractions
- Turn your phone on Do-Not-Disturb and move it off of your desk.
- Close unnecessary browser tabs.
- Get out of your house if you have to (coffee shops are always great).
Tip 3) Music
- Listen to instrumental music instead of music with lyrics
- Movie or your favorite video game soundtrack
- Interstellar, The Dark Knight, or anything by Hans Zimmer works wonders
Tip 4) Take Care of Yourself
- Move more (exercise)
- Eat better
- Get quality sleep (absolutely crucial)
- Prioritize recovery (mental and physical)
You can’t force a tired mind into work. Your mental performance has to be sustainable.
If you are reading this, you have ambition.
You want to build something that increases your quality of life monetarily, mentally, or physically.
This is the starting point.
Commit to an asymmetric bet.
Commit to focus.
You can also check out the podcast, You Are NOT The Sum of Your 5 Friends, that Joey and I did together.