A Synopsis of Leo Babauta’s book, Focus
There’s a relatively new book in town – “Focus” – by Leo Babauta, one of the world’s leading bloggers and creator of zen habits and mnmlist. In usual Leo style, he releases all copyright of the material in his free PDF version which is full of meat (121 pages of it).
So, here’s your Cliff Note version of Focus with some of my own thoughts added in for good measure (of course, the irony of powering through this book which is about the fact that we are all too busy and too distracted to do our best work, with the thought of providing you with a synopsis because you’re too busy and too distracted to have time to read this, is not lost on me).
Nevertheless, here it is in a nutshell:
Focusing on the essential allows us to get done the things that matter most.
And if you’re someone who creates, in any way, focus should be important to you.
As I skimmed the book while doing my usual multi-tasking, a phone call, responding to skype, I noted that Leo states,
“With so much competing for our attention, and so little time to focus on real work, it’s a wonder we get anything done at all.”
I decided it best, at that point, to set aside my other tasks and actually focus on Focus.
So, according to Leo, what fills our lives with so much distraction?
- social networks
- spouses or
- roommates or
- the home phone
- the mobile device
- We literally stream our distractions so they are nonstop (my add)
This constant demand for our attention is historically unprecedented, and it’s alarming.
What exactly is it that we’re addicted to? The positive feedback and self validation – another Twitter Follower – yippee!
Some time ago I read that Leo gave up doing email. He talks about it in this book. That one simple thing he did created tons of response – many from different extremes. He was applauded. He was booed. Here’s what he says about that:
“The simple act of giving up email was either hugely courageous, or arrogant, because I wasn’t living up to the expectation of society that I’d be available via email and at least make the attempt to reply. Interesting, because just a decade earlier, many people didn’t use email and no one cared if they didn’t.”
If you are reading this blog post chances are great that you are creative and you like to create.
So here’s the catch for you:
creating is a completely separate process from consuming and communicating.
Consuming and communicating can aid in creating, of course, they can lay the groundwork. But at some point you need to actually sit down and create. Or stand up and create. But create.
Technology is not the bad guy here, and is not what we should be afraid of. What we should fear is a life where we’re always connected, always interrupted, always distracted, always bombarded with information and requests. It’s a life where we have no time to create, or connect with real people.
So, what’s the cure? We need to:
- have a disconnect time each day
- work somewhere where there is no connection
- get outside
- forget your mobile device
- use blocking software
- disconnect away from work
Whoa! Hold the Twitter stream! This is sounding just a little…well, scary.
What are some of Leo’s tips for unplugging?
- To undo addiction – figure out your triggers then replace each trigger with a different habit, one at a time
- Start from scratch. Assume that nothing is sacred, empty your plate, and only put back on it what you absolutely need or love
- Let the rest fade away
- Go on a mini-cleanse. Start with something that’s not so scary: perhaps a day, or even half a day. Do this once a week. Later, as you get used to this, try a 2-3 day cleanse, and maybe even work your way up to a week.
And here was the real biggie for me in this book:
You don’t need to respond.
What? You can actually get emails and not respond? I wonder what would happen to the world if we all did that?
We all need to let go of the need to stay updated
And we all need to slow down
Benefits of Slowing Down
1. Better focus. When you slow down, you can focus better. It’s hard to focus if you’re moving to fast.
2. Deeper focus. Rushing produces shallowness, because you never have time to dig beneath the surface. Slow down and dive into deeper waters.
3. Better appreciation. You can really appreciate what you have, what you’re doing, who you’re with, when you take the time to slow down and really pay attention.
4. Enjoyment. When you appreciate things, you enjoy them more. Slowing down allows you to enjoy life to the fullest.
5. Less stress. Rushing produces anxiety and higher stress levels. Slowing down is calmer, relaxing, peaceful.
The secret, according to Leo is balance: conscious, purposeful balance.
I certainly can’t disagree with that. And I’d say his ideas are worth considering because if you are trying to “create your masterpiece — a work that will change your life and perhaps make the world a better place in some small way,” it’s probably worthwhile toning down the distractions and giving your creation your very best.
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