Minimalism, Self Improvement

4 Steps to Building Momentum with Focus

I wouldn’t say I’m particularly amazing at any one thing- I’ve learned the guitar, I’m a decent soccer player, I’m pretty good with Microsoft Excel, and I can cook up a tasty stir-fry. The list goes on but there’s really nothing that I’d call myself an expert in.

As fun as it is to have a versatile skill-set and variety in life, I feel ready to instead get really knowledgeable in one area, enough so that I could teach it to others, and know it well enough that people would come to me and maybe even pay me to hear what I have to say about it.

So like an overstuffed closet in need of spring cleaning, I’m in the process of culling and minimizing my hobbies, goals and activities so I can focus on the most important few. Here are the steps I’m taking:

1. Decide what I really like to do

Now, I need to clarify that title. Not only must I figure out what I enjoy doing, but more importantly figure out what I’ve enjoyed doing for a while. Hobbies come and go, I buy golf clubs and for a season or two it’s the greatest game ever, but the joy fades (along with my bank account). Steve Pavlina said it well:

If you can’t make a serious 5-year commitment to a given career path, it’s not your path.  Don’t overplay today’s fleeting interests when you think about making a serious commitment to a career path. Look instead to the interests you had 5 years ago that you’re still seriously interested in today.”

I know he’s talking about careers but it applies just the same

2. Pare down distractions and be honest with myself

I’ve held on to music recording equipment for years now, just waiting for that miraculous burst of motivation and creativity to write and record some classic riffs. But no matter my free time, there are always other activities that more strongly grab my attention. So I decided to sell all of it, leaving just the guitar, and now I don’t feel that guilt or mental pull to record music. I can focus on what comes easy.

3. Sell What I’m Not Using, or Haven’t Used in a While

Mr. Money Mustache wrote a great article on the fantastic invention of Craigslist. He considers Craigslist a way to ‘store’ stuff you don’t use. Consider the old set of golf clubs, which I haven’t touched in 2 years. By selling them on Craigslist for $100, I free up space in our storage room and stick some cash in my pocket! But what if I get back in to golf, you say? In any reasonably large city, I can likely pick up a similar set of golf clubs for $100 or less on Craigslist and I’m back in action!

Not only does this strategy free up physical space, but also reduces mental distraction. It’s ever-so slightly harder to focus on practicing your cooking skills when that dusty guitar stares at you from the corner of the living room, begging you to finally learn some more chords.

4. Choose 3 Things You Want to Learn or Achieve this Year

“Identify the essential, eliminate the rest” – Leo Babuata

For me, I’ve set trail running, mountain biking and gardening as my 3 focuses for 2016. So if someone asks me to join a pottery class, I have this yard-stick: will it impede my goals for my 3 focuses? Is this an activity that requires purchase of equipment? Would I be really sad to miss out on this relative to my 3 chosen activities?

Instead, I search out events that involve my 3 goals. I’ve been helping on trail building days which has led me to meet people in the running and biking community, and I joined a community farm in order to immerse myself in the gardening world.

When you focus your time and energy in just a few activities, magical things seem to happen. I’m already seeing the momentum build. Joining one event leads to more events, more people, more knowledge, and really seems to compound quickly.

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