Focus

Published March 05, 2014

Distractions will slowly kill you.

The past few months have been both an incredible success and an unmistakeable failure.

Some context. A few months ago I was lucky enough to not need full time work as some my ventures were generating sufficient revenue. I took the plunge and pursued working full-time on my work instead of for someone else. If you have ever dreamed about doing this I’m sure you can imagine how excited I was.

Fast-forwarding to today; while I did accomplish some of the goals I set in those months, such as relaunch one of my most successful and profitable businesses, which allows me to look back on the months as a success, I still also look back on it as a failure as well. This is because I felt I could have accomplished much more with the opportunity I had, I kept shooting myself in the foot.

For example, I kept switching between two major projects. Unsurprisingly, this lead me to sub par outcomes with both. Also, since I was pressed to raise revenue, I kept moving too quickly from one project to the next when it didn’t hit expectations instead of fully fleshing it out or considering the next move.

I felt frazzled.

A few weeks ago I decided to stop, take a breathe, and reevaluate everything. What I went on to do is something I highly recommend to anyone who both has a lot going on and also wants to achieve their aggressive goals (and deal with the stress of the combination of these two).

First I outlined my goals. I found the best way to do this was to think about what I want my life to be like, and identify the two or so goals that enable that life. If you do a good job identifying these goals, you should feel good about throwing everything behind them.

For me, this lead me to realizing that some of the goals I previously had did not fit into the life I wanted. An example of one of these goals is the goal of having a good career. When I think of my ideal life, I imagine a scene of me enjoying some tropical view with my lovely significant other, free of financial worries because of the success of things I have built and am currently growing. Nowhere in that identity is there “an enviable career arc”.

This realization was astounding to me. I had always considered myself someone very conscious of my career, for example staying on top of tech trends to know where the industry is going so I know what to learn to keep myself in demand and so on. It was something that always weighed on me.

That is not to say I hate all those things, not at all. I still love being a software developer, reading about software development, experimenting with new technologies, and building random things, getting better at my craft, etc., but I will only do those things to the extent that I enjoy them and not to be in demand. When saying this outloud it may seem like an obvious choice, but it is an approach I had to now consciously choose.

I then took a look at every commitment I had, everything. Pet projects, groups, etc., and removed everything that wasn’t directly a part of my goal.

Things became very clear, and it was easy to identify where to focus my efforts. The weeks the followed were by far the most productive in memory.

I’ll end this short post here and leave you with some advice; stop what you’re doing, identify what your goals are, and stop doing anything that doesn’t get you closer to achieving them.

I'm Adrian Artiles, an engineer, consultant, and adventurer in San Francisco.

I currently run Kionin, a consultancy and studio where we use the latest technology to help organizations and build products.

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