One of the traps I have always fallen into was trying to do too many things at once. Maybe it is in my personality-type to be hyper competitive and try to get good at multiple things. But I've always been chasing two rabbits, or more!
Needless to say, this has gotten either average results in both areas, or good results in just one.
As I grow up, I'm slowly learning to not do this.
The Scheduling Trap
I think the trap lies in scheduling and planning. I always plan before I execute on a new project, or before embarking on developing a new skill.
I set fixed times of the day, separate from work hours, to work on these projects that I embark on. It's all scheduled, with timely notifications in my Google Calendar.
On the surface, this is a good practice. Most people don't get anywhere because they don't plan and schedule. But for me, and maybe for you too, this is where the problem lies– overscheduling.
There's a cost to switching between tasks that goes unaccounted for. Google Calendar fails to account for the context switching cost, and that's where scheduling troubles begin.
While you can on-paper plan to do multiple things, schedule strict hours of the day for each, context switching becomes tough once you're really trying to excel at one of those things. You will eventually skimp on the other. I've seen this happen with myself over and over again.
When you're trying to (say) build a side project AND learn the piano. Eventually, as you get more and more into building the side project, learning piano will take a hit. Or vice versa.
Either your side project works okay and you don't get anywhere with the piano, or you half-ass both and get mediocre results in both.
And if you're like me, you do not like mediocre results. So you need to decide to focus, to macro focus.
Everything you choose to do, every project you choose to take up requires insane focus.
Focus is usually spoken about in the micro sense. Eg: How to focus on work for 3 hours without distractions?
There are many blogs and videos on this. Even I've written about it.
But Focus is rarely spoken about in the macro sense. Eg: What's one thing you're focused on for the next 3 months?
The importance of macro-focus is underrated and under spoken about. That's why I've decided to write this post.
How to macro focus
I turned 22 today, and as I grow younger, I'm realizing the importance of looking at life in phases of 3-6 months and focusing on ONE THING in each phase. Then moving on to the next.
You really need to put into context what is important and what is not for your short to mid-term goals and prioritize accordingly.
This decision can be a hard one to take, since you've got to dump a thing that you want to do but isn't relevant right now. Do the hard thing, it will pay off.
Here's an example of a hard decision I took recently...
Deciding to kill Startup Intern
(I wrote about why I started it here)
I started working on it on the side, after my day job. What initially started off as a 1-2 hour daily commitment eventually became a 4 hour commitment. Obviously, when you build something, there's always something that needs fixing or polishing, one more DM you could send to hiring founders, one more partner prospect you could find... work never ends when you're passionate about building something.
As you get more and more into building it, it is difficult to stop spending time working on it and switching to other priorities. There is a sunk cost (rightfully so).
There was too much happening. I was not able to focus on my longer term goals because of a startup idea I had when I was walking to get coffee. It was a good idea with potential, I hope someone else takes it up and tries to change the way interns are hired in India.
But if you put it into my current context, it just wasn't fitting. There was work to be done on changing user behavior, it obviously was not easy. Plus, I have an amazing job which I am not looking to "escape" by building a side biz.
Plus, I got into Stoa School, an alternative business education program for India. I'm in their first cohort, which makes it even more unique.
Plus, had some learning goals that would help me get to where I want to get at by 2021-2022. And pursuing this startup for 4 hours after my day job just was not helping me get there.
What I had initially thought of as a 2 hour a day task turned itself into a time sink. In retrospect, it is obvious this would have happened, especially if you're working on solving real problems. But this was not obvious when I planned for it. Lesson learnt.
Working extra hours on Startup Intern hurt my mid-term goal of getting really good at Growth Marketing and was hurting my self-education personal OKRs.
As much as I loved solving the problem, it was not a fit for me, right now. So I decided to shut it down.
This is why, you must choose to macro focus. As much as it is important to focus on the task at hand, it is important to be focused on which tasks you take at hand in the first place.
Choose to focus on just one thing, apart from your main job obviously.
If you want to excel at it, you have to give it your all. Just like you can't keep yourself distracted with Netflix and social media, you can't afford to have other sensible distractions too.
Hope this makes sense! Have a macro focus.
This is a personal epiphany I have had recently when trying to work on different things and wasting time context switching, and not making desired progress.
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