2 Lists To Live By
How often have you checked your inbox or the web only to realize it totally short-circuited an important task you were engaged in? How often have incoming calls, texts and/or emails undermined your level of presence with the people you were spending face-time with? How often has your desire to do everything left you too confused to do anything?
If the above problems beset you, strategic adviser Peter Bregman has a simple way to keep on track and avoid distractions. He suggests making and abiding by two lists; he recommends checking them throughout the day. The lists are broken down into two simple categories:
- Your Focus List (the road ahead)
- Your Ignore List (the distractions)
Though he doesn’t use the phrase, Bregman is describing life as opportunity cost. In order to have certain things (the road ahead), we need to turn down or ignore many others (the distractions). In order to be present with one person, you have to ignore many others. In order to do one thing really well, you have to not do infinite other things. There is a reason no one talks about Picasso’s novels–he chose to be a painter.
What’s unique about his suggestion is the use of active ignorance. It’s not enough to find out what’s important–we have to actively avoid the things–be they communications, tasks, pursuits, purchases, etc–that aren’t aligned with what’s important.
Bregman’s suggestions run counter to our culture that promotes all information all the time. But he’s emphatic about the importance of saying no and the heavy toll of unlimited inclusion. He writes:
Never before has it been so important to say “No.” No, I’m not going to read that article. No, I’m not going to read that email. No, I’m not going to take that phone call. No, I’m not going to sit through that meeting.
It’s hard to do because maybe, just maybe, that next piece of information will be the key to our success. But our success actually hinges on the opposite: on our willingness to risk missing some information. Because trying to focus on it all is a risk in itself. We’ll exhaust ourselves. We’ll get confused, nervous, and irritable. Read full essay here.
We live in an age of amazing tools that enable us to do and have more than ever possible. But our unlimited options often come at the detriment of singular focus and peace of mind. Suggestions such as Bregman’s offer sage advice on how to use these new tools wisely so we can do what’s important while staying sane.
How do you keep on task and combat distraction? Let us know.
Via Life Hacker
Image credit: EE Comics