I could do anything tomorrow, but by the time I considered [invalid operation] percent of infinite options, tomorrow would be gone and I’d be deceased. Frankly, an excess of possibilities paralyzes the mind as the first sentence, this speed dating study, and my experience all suggest.
No, we don’t consider every option, but the principle scales down to our lives nevertheless.
While having a large number of possible projects to choose from seems like a good problem to have – it remains a problem. Why? Having too many options cripples our decision-making ability (read the study). Focus is the champion of personal growth, decision-making, and productive living.
Excess possibilities have frozen me so much recently. By that I mean that I haven’t been able to do anything. My mind has been so full of ambitious ideas that I can’t focus enough to do any of them. I’ve been thinking without taking action – NOT what this site is about.
It All Started When…
Earlier this year my ambition started rising through the troposphere and I embraced it. Not a big surprise – as before that my mind was being used as a storage unit instead of a creation machine. Now that I have a physical flash drive, I can use that as my storage unit and use my brain to create – IF I can narrow my focus and eliminate some options.
As I thought of dozens of ideas (thanks to Thinkertoys) – they zoomed my focus out and I gradually became less productive. This is alright in the short run, as there is a time to think and a time for action, and in that order.
I was working on the blog 80 hours a week for the first 2-3 weeks. As time went on, my passion did not dwindle very much, but my time spent working on Deep Existence did. The reason of course – too many distractions disguised as “other things I could do.”
I have two additional domain names registered that I have not done anything with. One of them would have been a massive project with two friends that was canceled. The other, if I ever start it, is a humor website that specializes in quirky, clean humor with intelligence behind it.
Add to these another 20 or so website and life ideas I want to implement and my mind has a lot to juggle. It’s finally time to eliminate some possibilities and FOCUS. It’s time to kill my ambition temporarily in selected areas in order to enhance it in the remaining areas.
Time is a limited resource for humans. It will be limited until cryogenic technology finally works and allows us to be preserved until the lake of youth is discovered and then we’ll jump in and drown immediately because our muscles’ atrophied and we forgot how to swim. I repeat – time is a limited resource for humans.
It is possible that we can accomplish most of our greatest dreams in a lifetime, but they aren’t going to happen at the same time. Focusing on 1-3 projects at a time sounds boring, but it is the best way to get things done!
Destroy Your Desires (Well, Not Exactly)
You know how your computer doesn’t run all of your programs at the same time? That’s smart use of its resources. The GTD System is so popular because it accomplishes this feat with the human brain.
We can do it in a simple way with pen and paper.
Once you have writing instruments, jot down all of the big projects (life & career) you’re considering undertaking or are in the process of doing.
After you have your list:
- Decide which one is best to do right now and in the near future.
- After you pick that one, analyze your responsibilities to determine if you can fit in another project to dedicate your time to. If you can fit another, pick the second best project that is best to do right now.
- Repeat 1 & 2 until your projected workload is about 80% capacity (to account for inaccuracies and prevent burnout). I’m going for no more than three at a time.
- Store the “reserve” list in a safe place you’ll remember (and add to it when you think of something else).
- Staple the current project list to your freaking wall. Use tape if you’d like to be less destructive/extreme, but it won’t pump you up as much. This list is your focus reminder.
- When you finish or cancel one project – simply consult your “queue” and choose the next best one that fits.
A mentally digestible workload. That’s what I want (you too?). I have enough ideas to last me 10 years and I’ll come up with more passively, so it’s time to get to work in the present. This is the daily checklist concept – which most of us have good experiences with – applied to the larger scale of major life projects.
You’ve probably heard it said before – “don’t try to change everything at once.” This is a great way to take that advice.
My new focused list of big projects:
- Finish* digital book for Deep Existence.
- Buy domain name and start new website (secret :-D)
- Consistently get up before 8 AM every morning.
*Not to be confused with “Finnish,” though they are welcome to read it.
Bonus: When you cover the piece of paper with completed projects and need a new sheet, you can tear the paper down ceremoniously. It’s more satisfying than checking something off. 😛