Budgeting for Focus
And being mindful of distractions.
If focus is a superpower, distraction is kryptonite.
There has never been an easier time to be distracted than right now. We live in a world of endless distractions. There is always something calling for our attention. There is always something to watch, read, or endlessly scroll. There is always another meeting to attend, an email to answer, or unread messages in Slack to catch up on. While I don’t think distractions are entirely avoidable, I believe deliberate action can be taken to minimize them.
I confess: I’m a sucker for Dave Ramsey videos on YouTube. When I go down a “YouTube rabbit hole,” I inevitably find some combination of skateboarding, physics, math, engineering, programming, and Dave Ramsey content. I love his no-nonsense folk wisdom and easy-to-understand financial advice. In a nutshell, he’s helped millions of people get out of debt and build wealth. Tactically, he provides a path to spend less than you make and get on a budget so that your money can work for you. Many folks who call into his show haven’t spent time being mindful of their money. Instead, they’ve avoided thinking about their choices with money, and therefore they end up in a crippling debt with no plan of how to get out.
The same holds for how we spend our time. If you aren’t deliberate about budgeting your time, you inevitably make terrible time choices. No matter how rich or poor you are, you’ll never get back the time you’ve spent.
With money, when you get on a budget and start saving for the future, you tap into the power of compounding interest. This is that magical tool that builds on what you’ve accumulated. This is where the wild math, like if you put away $200/month every month for 40 years at 8% interest, you’d have saved up over $648,000 while only contributing $96,000. The rest of that is compounding interest.
Budgeting focus time also provides a compounding return on your investment. When you dedicate time to focus on something that taps into your creativity and cultivates personal growth, you get more than what you put into it. That’s because that mental and creative growth is its form of compounding. Making time to explore interesting topics builds breadth and depth that only comes from putting in deep focus over time.
Suppose you don’t feel you’ve made enough time in your day to cultivate an undistracted focus on things that are interesting to you. In that case, it probably means you’re living in a reactive mode, dealing with endless distractions that enter your life. If you aren’t careful, those distractions will eat away at your time, filling in the unplanned gaps of your day until nothing is left.
One thing that has helped me is leveraging Cal Newport’s Time-Block Planner. It’s how I “budget” focus time for my day. I like it because it’s easy to plan and amend my day as it changes. My day is full of distractions (both self-imposed and from external sources). Still, I know that if I’m mindful about blocking focus time for the important work and the compounding return on investment work, I build a future that I couldn’t have imagined otherwise.
Interesting Links this Week
This post, Write More Useless Software, really resonated with me. It beautifully expresses my feelings about many of my software projects.
One of my favorite musicians, Disasterpeace, released a new album, and I’m digging it.
An exciting post about a 3-state Turing Machine that claims that it cannot be proven to halt or not.