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How do you stay focused on the most important goal?

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Oct 12, 2020
There are two parts to the question:
  1. How do we continuously re-identify the most efficient way forward?
  2. How do we remain focused on the one, most efficient way forward at any given (working) moment?
Everyone is working on something that is important to them. I assume your end-goal is clear to you.

Here, we are not trying to identify our end-goal. Instead, we are trying to stay focused on the best course of action that will bring us closer to the end-goal. By choosing wisely where you invest your time/effort, you make most other actions obsolete.

At any given moment there is always that one thing you can do to achieve the maximum possible progress toward your most important goal. That "one thing" is a moving target. When you complete a task, the next most efficient way forward might be something completely different (the weakest link in the chain has moved). My questions to you are:

  • How do we re-identify the best route to progress?
  • How often should we re-identify it to make sure it's still the best way forward?
  • And then, how do we stay focused on this moving target?
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Creative contributions

Remove all distractions from your surroundings

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Oct 12, 2020
Obvious distractions:
  • smartphone apps, social media, TV, basically anything with a screen, that is not work
  • phone calls, video chats, messaging, friends, family, pets (during your work hours)
  • anything providing instant pleasure that takes your mind away from work (coffee breaks, snacks, quick chores)
Non-obvious distractions:
  • checking/replying to email; you consider it work, but what you see there takes your mind away from the ONE most important thing you should be working on
  • checking stats; you consider it work, but it actually serves as pleasure (provides quick bursts of dopamine) hoping to see the progress you are making
  • having many open tabs and apps; when opened, they might have been relevant to your work, but now serve as distractions because the multitude of them gang up on you and compete for your attention. The attention that is taken away from the ONE most important thing you should be working on. Just save the links in a text file and close the tabs. Chances are you will never check the links again - that's how important they were in comparison to your most efficient way forward.
  • answering the phone; you might consider it work, but whoever is calling you has a task for you. What are the chances the task is the ONE most important thing you should be doing at that moment? It's important to the caller, but not necessarily to you at that moment. Postpone it to a more suitable moment (if ever).
Relaxation is not a distraction though. You need it to prevent yourself from burning out. Then again, thinking about relaxation is a distraction:) Maybe find a suitable time management system (example: pomodoro) that tells you when to relax and when to focus. That way you can take thinking about it out of the equation. I use my own set of guidelines, described here.

SMARTness of your goal

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J
Juran Oct 14, 2020
Constantly redefine how SMART your goal is:
  1. Specific (what, why, who, where, ...)
  2. Measurable (Shubhankar´s proxy idea)
  3. Achievable (how realistic it is e.g. in terms of finances)
  4. Relevant (does it solve a problem, is it the right time, who am I targeting, am I the right person, ...)
  5. Timely (when, until when, where I want to be today evening, in 2 weeks, ...)
If you, at any moment, find yourself not being able to answer clearly to any of these, consider it as an alarm to modify your approach.
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni7 months ago
And a cool abbreviation! Makes it easy to remember.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic7 months ago
I like the wholesome systematic approach!

Identify a proxy that helps you measure the distance from your goal

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Oct 12, 2020
To answer the first part of the question: Identify a proxy that helps you measure the distance from your goal. After every significant step in the work process, evaluate how far you are from the goal using the identified proxy. Every time you face multiple paths that you can take, use the proxy to select the right path.

Define a set of rules and follow them

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Oct 12, 2020
  1. To answer the first part of the question, set a rule that will identify the most efficient way forward: For example, as mentioned in the previous suggestion, the first rule can be to "identify a proxy that helps you measure the distance from your goal". The second rule can be to use the identified proxy at specified intervals to evaluate which way is the best one forward.
  2. To answer the second part of your question, identify rules that limit digression. These rules should, too, be dependent on the ultimate goal. For example, set your working hours and your breaks. Set a time that you will spend in things that provide quick bursts of dopamine and follow it.
Don't set highly optimistic and stringent rules right from the start. This might lead to a revolution and disruption of the whole system. Change the rules gradually.

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