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The Ultimate Guide On How To Focus On What Really Matters (The Focus Pyramid)

“Chaos breeds life, order creates habit” – Henry Adams

 

(& habit creates progress – and who doesn’t like progress? edit: I do!)

I try to wake up every day with clear intent of where I want to go with my life. Yet I constantly bump into the dichotomy of chaos and order since I look for a pretty divided outcome;

  • On the one hand I’m feverishly looking for progress in my life which flows out of clearly structured habits
  • On the other hand I’m looking for my life to be supremely blissful, composed out of thrilling new experiences.

In the mean-time I’m getting distracted by other people telling me how I should live my life to harvest what they believe to be “success”.

It’s chaotic,
therefore confusing,
therefore difficult.

& I don’t like that

So, how do I face this conundrum? And more importantly; how do I organize my life when everything is falling apart?

edit: Yes, I’m experimenting with difficult words.

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Indicators Of Chaos

Dishes are piling up, keys magically disappear (although they were in your hand two seconds ago) and groceries just don’t get done. It’s mostly the small things that give in first..

But it increases..

Deadlines aren’t met, appointments are forgotten and overall your confidence just drops to an all-time low whilst unfinished tasks are piling up on your desk.

It doesn’t help that our surroundings are constantly competing for our ever decreasing attention span in what I find to be “The Age Of Distraction”

Think media, video games, advertisements, …

And we wonder about the cause of the rising epidemic of ADHD in youth?

Life seems to fly past whilst we struggle to gain some traction.

Chaos galore..

I hate it.

I like LOVE being “on top” of my stuff.

Yet last week I had the feeling that control was slipping trough my hands a bit – Like a bundle of sand I’m trying to hold that’s flowing trough my fingers caused by the exerted pressure.

Losing grip on your life?

It sucks IMO

It’s the sole thing that prevents growth (which is what you’re – hopefully – striving for).

So, how do you fix this?

Structure

Why Do We Need Structure?

We don’t Simon! I’m getting all my stuff done already – “on the fly” – without too much planning!

I highly doubt it and if you’re getting any results at all, they’ll be sub-optimal at best.

Let me answer that question with a great quote I’ve stumbled upon recently;

most people surveying the world around them today see only chaos. They suffer a sense of personal powerlessness and pointlessness.”

“Individuals need life structure.

A life lacking in comprehensive structure is an aimless wreck. The absence of structure breeds breakdown.

Structure provides the relative fixed points of reference we need.” – Alvin Toffler (The Third Wave)

Let me repeat that: The absence of structure breeds breakdown.

You can solely build up something (e.g. progress) with a solid plan of attack. Ever tried;

  • Building a house without a plan?
  • A thriving business without a solid business plan?
  • A strong body without a effective training schedule?

You’ll end up with these kinds of results (click to enlarge)

Yeah, Ok. I think life can be pretty chaotic at times. I guess some sense of structure sounds reasonable… So..

How Do I Focus On What Really Matters?

What we basically lack when all is going to shit is focus

What we basically lack when all is going to shit is focus

Yes, I’ve written that twice. So you’ll understand.. CLEARLY

Sounds plausible Simon, so how do I get more focused & structured?

Alright, time to get practical.. Structuring your life is relatively simple yet not that easy. The way I approach it is in 5 steps;

  1. Vision
  2. Goals
  3. Prioritize
  4. Plan
  5. Execute

Let’s take a closer look..

Vision

focus on vision

First up, it goes without showing that you should have somewhat of a purpose defined and have designed your life plan by now. Having a vision planned out for your life is the foundation of clarity.

(If not, I highly recommend you to > Download A Copy Of My Life Plan Excel File< and start reading my post on Goal Setting. )

Here’s a quick re-cap of how I do it;

Start by envisioning how you want your life to look like ideally in all areas of life. See it as a menu (like in a restaurant) where you can pick basically anything you want. Think like a child for now – think limitless.

Go over the essentials like your ideal health, financial situation and social life. Expand further into skills/knowledge you want to master, the way you want your mind to be, what you want to contribute and so-on ;) Pick the things that excite you the most.

Got that image in your mind? Good!

Now, write down specifically what your ideal day would look like. If you need some inspiration here’s a part of mine;

I wake up in a king sized bed next to the most beautiful and smart girl you’ve ever seen in my house on the beach in Hawaii. I do my morning ritual and drink from my juicer. I go for a swim in the ocean and catch some nice wild salmon to eat later in the evening. I go back home and wash myself and do a light morning workout. I read a couple of hours in a interesting book about astronomy and technology…

Basically: Establish an ideal vision of what you want your life/you to look like.

What does your ideal day/life look like?

Goals

focus on goals

Now if you’re ambitious you probably have A LOT of ideas about how your ideal life would look like. But clarity doesn’t come when EVERYTHING needs to get done or when your to-do list runs endlessly. Therefore we’re going to reduce all your goals to your top three that will have the MOST IMPACT on the quality of your life (Be sure to make these VERY SPECIFIC).

This is key!

Discard all the rest.

To give you an example, here are mine;

  • Great Health
    Without great health I’m nothing. Iwon’t be ableto function optimally nor be able to enjoy the fruits of my labor. I value energy, strength and aesthetics. I define “Great Health” as;

    • 85kg @ 8% bodyfat
    • 300Kg Deadlift, Squat 250Kg, Benchpress 200Kg)
    • Great skin, gut health & white teeth
    • Radiating energy (focused and alert at all times under optimal conditions)
  • Financial Independence
    Financial independence will grant me freedom of time and energy to spend on work that I find worthwhile to pursue. It clears the issue of money of the table and can get you really started to make some impact in the world. “Start making a life and not a living. I define FI as;

    • €6250/monthly
    • Own two fast-lane businesses
    • No debt
  • Great Social Life
    People are a necessity in my life. Although I’m not naturally gifted in the people department I value strong relationships to a huge degree. I care about quality notquantity in this area.I define “a great social life” as;

    • Great connection with two close friends (M & N)
    • Mastering all the principles taught in “How To Win Friends And Influence People”
    • 3 high-quality girlfriends (smart, fun & attractive)

What are your top three goals?

Prioritize

focus on scale

So now we’ve established the “what”-part. Now we’re going to move into the “how”-part. Now this is off-course the most tricky part since you can never really know exactly which actions will take you to your desired end-goals.

The best way to do this is to simply weigh-off your options and estimate the highest-leverage actions.

Just take your most educated guess by analyzing your situation and copying what others are doing. Trust in the process and adjust it as you go along. As Steve Jobs said most eloquently;

You can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path. – Steve Jobs

So, How do I do it?

I use a method called “The Law Of Pareto“;

pareto

It is originally an economic principle that stated that;

  • 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers

It helps to focus on the actions with the highest leverage in achieving your goals. It can be applied to many things and will make reaching your goals increasingly efficient.

Basically, you’ll ask yourself: “What are the 20% of actions I can take that will get me 80% of the desired results?”

As applied to my goals above, this is the best bet I can make at this time;

  • Great Health
    • Train heavy
    • Eat healthy
    • Sleep 6 to 7:30 hours a day
  • Financial Freedom
    • Learning
    • Writing
    • Experimenting
    • Money Management
  • Great Social Life
    • Meet-ups with my two friends
    • Cold-approaching women
    • Networking/Interacting

Note: There’s also a concept called Hyper-Pareto, meaning you’ll repeat this process again to become even more focused.

  • “What are the 20% of actions you can take of those 20% that will get me 80% of the results of the 80% of results?” (So basically: 4% of actions that yield 64% of the results.Do this again and you’ll get the 1% of actions that will give 50% of the results (in theory). But who wants half results eh?

It’s fun to experiment with this but the idea is simply this; Fill ALL your time with high-leverage activities.

What are the highest leverage actions you can take for each goal?

Plan

focus on deadline

From there start dividing these big, high-leverage actions into smaller actionable steps over time (like I talked about in my post on goal setting), Be sure to include benchmarks (measure points)

Therefore reduce your actions/set benchmarks for;

  • 18-months
    (according to Peter Drucker this is the furthest we can plan into the future without the image becoming unreliable)
  • Yearly
  • Quarterly (3 months)
  • Monthly
  • Weekly

What are the smallest actionable steps you can take for each period and how will you track progress (determine benchmarks)?

Execute

focus on execute

So now you’ll have filled in your Week-Planner with a load of high-leverage activities. So how do we efficiently do the actual work?

I’ve used numerous tactics to actually plan my days;

From planning every moment in detail to the very hour I’m supposed to do it as well as letting my life flow by without any order.

Result?

The first approach leads to a stress overload, lack of freedom to adjust and you mostly miss all your deadlines which feels extremely unrewarding. The second approach is like having no goals at all (which is probably the approach most people use)

Structure is necessary yet too much of a good thing is a bad thing.

Solution?

Plan your ONE highest-leverage activity first thing in the morning and execute it until it is done. Everything else besides that ONE THING is simply a distraction.

  • NO email
  • NO facebook
  • NO people interrupting
  • NO cleaning
  • NO nothing else
  • (unless these are your one thing)

Just nice… clean…. constant focus. Aaaaaaah, feels great doesn’t it?

“There’s no force greater than a well-focused mind”

The way I execute daily is by choosing three to four “big things” with one primary focus for my day (I usually do this the night before). I write them down on my whiteboard and take a picture of them when I leave the house. I focus all my energy and time on those 3-4 tasks and let the other chips/interference’s of life fall where they may.

Like Stephen Covey said in his book “7 Habits Of Highly Effective People”; Focus on your “Big Rocks” first.

Note: Be sure to set a realistic time-block (set a time for) your activities in which they NEED to be finished & keep them short! Two reasons for this;

  • If you give yourself too much time you’ll just end up expanding your work (Parkinson’s Law)
  • If you give yourself too little time you won’t be able to finish the task

You’ll learn how to do this more efficiently by practicing and experimenting.

Just line up your bricks and let them fall as they should. Then witness the formation of forward momentum that will grant you total life control

Sounds pretty good – doesn’t it? :)

Final Notes

Note that your vision will change continuously over time and therefore the whole hierarchy will change. The goals I’ve set at the beginning of this year have become highly inaccurate now and therefore I recommend to actively review this process about once a month. If you feel like you’re going off-track there’s no need to wait a month and you MUST do it sooner.

Furthermore you’ll still have some routine tasks that are low-leverage but need to get done anyway, things like; doing the dishes, washing your clothes, cleaning your house, running errands, cooking, … .

If you can afford it, I suggest you delegate low-leverage tasks to a maid. If not; Batch them all together in one day/afternoon, whilst listening to audio-books.

Video-Blog

I’ve also made a supportive video for the ones who don’t have the time to read trough all of this.

Note: However the fact that I made a video, I want you to know that speaking isn’t one of my natural strengths and – although I’ve made progress on this – I recommend reading the full blogpost over watching the video.

Watch On Youtube

Essence

All-right! A lot to take in… Here’s a re-cap of what you need to know;

  1. Vision
    Create Your Ideal Vision
  2. Goals
    Set Your 3 Highest Impact Goals
  3. Prioritize
    Determine Your Highest-Leverage Actions
  4. Plan
    Divide Your Actions Over Time And Set Benchmarks
  5. Execute
    Pick 3-4 “Big Rocks” And Annihilate Them Accordingly
focus on pyramid

That’s the exact system I’ve been using for the past couple of months and it’s working flawlessly so far. I’ll adjust it further as time goes on and I’ll see where it gets me.

So, what do I want you to do for now?

Use it! (or at least give it a try & give me some feedback on it ;))

The best way to test this is by simply asking you this one question;

What Are Your 3 Highest-Impact Goals Overall & What Are The 3 Highest-Leverage Actions You Can Take This/Next Week?

Ok, I lied. Those are two questions :/

Anyway, that’s it for today!

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If you feel like this post can help anyone out that you know, feel free to share it with your friends or send it in a mail to your mom! It helps me out a lot! If you’re having any thoughts or questions on this topic, feel free to share those with me in the comment section below.

Take care,

Love,

Simon

Tags : age of distractionchaoscontrolfocusstructure

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11 Comments

  1. Hi Simon

    i spent at least an hour reading ur bolg until i finally got here. i really enjoy ur writing style, it is very easy to be understood and practical. i had course with lewis howes a year ago he taught exactly the same thing like you did, keep up the good work mate

    xx

  2. I don’t know much about weightlifting, all I do are bodyweight exercises, but I think you are on something with human potential.
    I started doing chin-ups regularly about 3 years ago and my max was 14. Now it’s 45. I went from about 40 to 137 pushups within several years.
    There is a lot of place for improvement at the beginning ;)

    Like Stout, I’m skeptical about long term goals. For me the personal mission statement takes care of that. I know where I want to be, but HOW I get there is not determined solely by my conscious effort. So far this approach works like magic (including buying my first home and finding the publisher).

    1. Weightlifting, running, calisthenics, climbing,.. . It’s all a bit about goals and personal preference I guess

      Yeah that’s actually a training principle: diminishing returns. It’s always great to see progress on the things you’re putting time and energy in!

      137? Wow, that’s incredible. I don’t think I know many people who can manage that.

      18 months says Peter Drucker – so far I believe him héhé,

      Take care Michal!

  3. The age of distraction is so true. I keep seeing people checking their emails throughout the day. Dozens of times in fact and there’s really no reason to keep looking at it. The same goes for Facebook. I don’t really check Facebook that frequently, but I’ve considered deleting my account simply because it’s a distraction. Plus, people only share junk anyway.

    I like that idea of focusing on a few goals. I kind of do that. I’ve found that if you spread your attention on too many things at once, you don’t give each one enough attention. I’d rather do a few things really well than a lot of things just ok.

    1. Most definitely Steve!

      Yeah, social media are probably the worst. They’re actually driving people more apart since they aren’t meeting in person anymore.

      Take care man!

  4. Incredible post Simon! You covered a lot of concepts and really nailed it.

    I’m a big fan of short term goals and long term vision. I don’t prefer long term goals , because (like you mentioned) I find myself adapting and changing as life happens.

    I completely agree with the approach to tackling the highest impact tasks or goals. A less competent person, who is focused, will get more done than the smartest person who is distracted.

    Keep up the great work!

    1. Thanks KW, glad you liked the article man!

      Yeah indeed – we can’t accurately predict the future, besides you’ll be missing out on peripheral opportunities by focusing on those long-term goals. Kind of like horse-blinders (kinda ;))

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by

      Take care,

  5. Haha funny picture!

    180 kg squat – shit. That’s really good.

    Are those goals achievable in 5 years? Probably!

    ———-

    My 1 RM:

    Deadlift: 200kg
    Squat: 145 kg
    Bench: 105 kg / 4 reps dumbbell bench 47.5 kg
    Weighted pullups: 50 kg
    Weighted dips: 70 kg

    I weigh 72 kg currently.

    1. My 1RM for deadlift, squat & bench respectively are: 200, 180 & 100. & Yours?

      Do you think my numbers are achievable naturally in a 5 year span? I have difficulty sometimes estimating human potential and therefore just try to aim reasonably higher.

      Glad you liked the video Ludvig! Although it’s not one of my personal strengths I’m trying to work on the skill – I think it’s an important one.

      Yeah I guess Covey left quite a legacy haha ;) (http://goo.gl/Ver7tb)

      Anyway, take care man.

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