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How to Not Let Focus Get in the Way of Productivity

Focus can be essential to productivity, but it is possible to try too hard to get things done. Here are three ways you can be focused without burning out

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BY Damon Brown - 01 Mar 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Entrepreneurs cherish focus. It is what we search for during all-nighters, seek in that third cup of coffee and run after when we pursue extreme goals. But too much focus can kill your productivity.

Here is how less focus can make you even more powerful when you do focus.

Do sprints: Sportsman-turned-entrepreneur Lewis Howes calls it doing sprints, as in focusing on something intensely for a short period, then stopping to reassess. It helps keep your energy and, ironically, have more focus when you do focus. I've been a long advocate, albeit from another angle: Implement palate cleansers between intense work and minimal viable days to give your brain a chance to rest and assimilate information.

Do mindless activities: Greg Mckoewn's Essentialism breaks down the process well:

"But in fact, we can easily do two things at the same at the same time: wash the dishes and listen to the radio, eat and talk... and so on. What we can't do is concentrate on two things at the same time."

We can use this to our advantage, though: As I explain in The Bite-Sized Entrepreneur, our brain actually continues to work on our problems when we stop "thinking" about them. So-called mindless activities gives our mind space to think and create creative solutions. My preferred activity is walking (as it was for Steve Jobs), but it could be going to the gym, cooking and cleaning, or another simple, easily achievable act.

Do parallels: Working on other projects in parallel helps you see things you didn't see before. Consider Archimedes's Eureka moment or Newton's gravity-defining apple while he sat under the tree.


Personally, I gained insights into my last startup, Cuddlr, when I spent time parallel time working on my other startup, So Quotable, just as reading a book on warfare recently helped me understand how to be a more deliberate person.

Everything is connected, everything is useful.

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