Derek Sivers
Focus - by Leo Babauta

Focus - by Leo Babauta

ISBN: 1434103072
Date read: 2011-01-17
How strongly I recommend it: 4/10
(See my list of 360+ books, for more.)

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

Nice short reminder of the importance of solitude and focus. Single-tasking. Only doing your most important things, and let the rest go.

my notes

Addictive activities, such as doing drugs or eating junk food, have the same kind of instant positive feedback -- you do the activity, and right away, you're rewarded with something pleasurable but don't feel the negative consequences until much later. Checking email, or any similar online activity, has that addictive quality of instant positive feedback and delayed negative feedback.

I wasn't living up to the expectation of society that I'd be available via email and at least make the attempt to reply.

Creating is a completely separate process from consuming and communicating.

All the reading and consumption of information we do, all the communicating we do, and all the switching between modes we do -- it all takes away from the time we have to create.

Separate your day: a time for creating, and a time for consuming and communicating. And never the twain shall meet.

When you're meeting with someone, turn off the device so you can focus on that person completely.

Try changing each trigger, one at a time. So if you go to check your blogs first thing in the morning, make it a new habit to not open your browser, and instead open a simple text editor and start writing.

Start your day in quiet, before the busy-ness of the world intrudes on your peace of mind.

Begin your work day by listing your three Most Important Tasks. Start immediately on the top task. Single-task on this important task as long as you can -- ideally until it's done. Now you've started your day with focus, and you've already accomplished something great.

Every hour or two, do a refocus ritual.
25 minutes of focus + 5 minutes of rest.
Work disconnected for 45 minutes and connect for 15 minutes. You get the idea -- it's almost as if the connected period is a reward for doing good, focused work.

Limit your stream to only the most essential information and communications, and you'll free up hours of time for creating and doing amazing things.

Start from scratch. Assume that nothing is sacred, empty your plate, and only put back on it what you absolutely need or love.

Admit to yourself: you can't read and consume everything. You can't do everything,

Choose what you'll do and read and respond to, and let the rest go. Let the rest go. This is unbelievably important. You have to accept this, and be OK with it.

Are you afraid people will think you're rude? Are you afraid you'll miss something? Are you afraid you'll lose customers?

This obsession with keeping up with information takes away from the things that are most important to us. But we try to keep up because we're afraid: we might miss something important, and seem ignorant we might miss out on an opportunity we might not see something bad that we need to respond to.

Remember that urges are only temporary. If you are aware that you're feeling an urge, you can ride it like a wave -- it'll surge and get stronger, and then fade away. Take some deep breaths, and replace the habit with another habit.

Whenever you find yourself dreading something, procrastinating, forcing yourself and hating it, stop and ask yourself why. There must be a reason -- you'll never sustain any action for long if you hate doing it. Change course to something you're more excited about,

Anticipate the difficult by managing the easy. Another famous quote by Lao Tzu, it's timeless and wise. If you can manage the easy, small things now, you'll save yourself the time and effort of having to do the difficult things later.

While many people will say that striving for something new is a good thing, that we should always be striving, unfortunately it means we're never satisfied.

Charles Dickens once wrote, "He did each single thing as if he did nothing else."

Your Most Important Task list. These should be extremely important tasks that will have a high-impact on your life. Don't do anything else before doing the first thing on this short list.

Multi-projecting can work -- you get one project going, but while you're waiting on something, you can switch to a second or even third project. All the time, you're only working on one task at a time, until each task is done, however.

Do note that there's a danger in taking on too many projects at once. I'd suggest taking on as few projects as possible. If you can do only one project at a time, without getting stuck in waiting, then do that -- it's much more effective and you'll get your projects done much faster. But when you must wait, you can switch to a second project.

The best art is created in solitude, for good reason: it's only when we are alone that we can reach into ourselves and find truth, beauty, soul.

"Just in case" is a place in the space time continuum that invokes clutter.

Don't keep things in your workspace just in case, don't buy things just in case. The future is a mystery, let it remain that way.


"Most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you'll have more time, and more tranquillity. Ask yourself at every moment, 'Is this necessary?'" – Marcus Aurelius

"Without great solitude no serious work is possible." – Pablo Picasso

Nikola Tesla: "The mind is sharper and keener in seclusion and uninterrupted solitude. Originality thrives in seclusion free of outside influences beating upon us to cripple the creative mind. Be alone -- that is the secret of invention: be alone, that is when ideas are born."