Focusing Life

I’ve recently discovered Tim Ferriss’ blog and have been making my way through some of his older posts and some videos. I can’t believe I’ve never seen it before. He has an interesting and valuable approach to life. I’m going to steal a few of his ideas and try them out for myself.
In his post on the Superstar Effect, Ferriss paraphrases Steven Martin, stating that “the key to diligence isn’t the work applied to your pursuit, but instead the work you don’t apply to other pursuits.” This phrase hit me. I’m constantly trying out new pursuits, often to the detriment of those which I am already pursuing. In my defense though, trying new things can be extremely rewarding. In fact it’s probably one of the only things I’d really say I’m a master of.
I’ve decided after some thought to try some refinement of my daily activities. I can’t find the quote, but I feel like I read a suggestion somewhere to pick 3 things to be good at. I like this number, but I’m having a hard time coming up with this few. I can clearly see the benefit of at least three. Ferriss mentions this in this video, but I’ve had the same experience where doing something great in one persuit (pulling a PR, learning an aria) can make up for failures or frustrations in another (flat site traffic, injury). Getting up to three is not my problem.
I made a list of activities that I want to continue to improve or start doing while trying to narrow down to three. Here’s my list (in no particular order):
  • Opera Singing
  • A Cappella Singing
  • Coding
  • Guitar
  • Bass
  • Lifting
  • Free Running
  • Making Jewelry
  • Photography
  • Leadership Reading/Writing
  • Nutrition Reading/Writing
  • Creative Writing
  • Learn About Robotics/Electronics
  • Work
  • Cooking
  • Surfing
  • Hiking/Backpacking

And I’m probably missing a few. Looking at this list and trying to narrow it down to 3 things makes me very depressed. It’s not possible. Or rather, it is, but it would defeat the purpose. The purpose of this whole experiment is to make me a happier person, both by simplifying my life and also by allowing me to focus more and become better at certain activities instead of being mediocre at a lot of them.

I tried a few different approaches to narrowing the list down. I made a spreadsheet and ranked them along different variables and I made lists of pros and cons for each one. But in the end I’ve come to realize that 3 is not possible, so I’m going to try something else. The approach I’ve decided on is to select 3 activities at a time and pick some measurable goal to complete. I will then have a list of three things at any given time which I can work towards when I have free time and energy. The hard part will be avoiding taking up other activities until I complete one of those three. My starting list is: Finish a website project I’m working on, play bass for 10 hours, and write a leadership related blog post.

I should also mention that I separated this list in my head into required activities (like work and excercise), group activities (a cappella singing, opera rehearsals), and more one offs (almost everything else). I’m not going to have the required stuff be part of my list, I’m just going to do it regularly. The group activities will likely factor in as part of the list, but in a more granular fashion. For example, “learn song X”, as opposed to “be in this group.” The latter is too hard to measure and account for. Rehearsals will count as regular activities, and thusly will not be included in the list.

Ok, that’s the plan, now it’s just a matter of execution on my part. So far I’m doing ok. I’ve been working on my site, but I haven’t practiced my bass, and I’ve outlined the blog post, but instead I sat down and wrote this one. Oh well, I’m not perfect.

Comments

  1. You don’t HAVE to eliminate all but three just because Ferriss says. Just do them all!

  2. Yeah, I get that. This is merely an experiment to see if it improves management of my time and energy to focus on a limited number of things at the same time. We’ll see if it really pans out or not.

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