Focus on What Matters: Don’t Just Be a Minimalist of Things, Be a Minimalist of Work and Life

In case you don’t know yet, I’ve been developing a course on getting and staying focused in the past few months. I beta-launched a shorter version of this last year and now I’m updating and developing the entire course from scratch.

During the exact same time that I was creating my first flagship class, I took a course called Mental Mastery by Ramit Sethi and joined the Write More Everyday beta program by Primoz Bozic. While participating in these programs, I had the opportunity to think a lot more about my work, productivity, and focus.

I’ve had some deep realizations that are likely to change the way I do things in the near future. The general theme of these realizations is minimalism:

Commit to fewer goals, focus on fewer things, and then put all the energy towards mastering what matters most.

I’ve been ruminating on these ideas for quite a while but now it’s time to take action and make changes instead of simply thinking about them. Here, I’m going to lay out a few things I have in mind that I’m going to do for the coming weeks, months, and years.

We Become What We Consume

Whether you like it or not, what we consume ultimately shape us — our beliefs, values, behaviors, habits, and outcomes. That said, I haven’t come up with these ideas by myself. For context, these are the people who have influenced me, directly and indirectly, this year:

Ryan Holiday. I enjoy his books, but what I like most is the way he works. He made me realize that 95% of the grind we don’t show to the public — but have to go through — matters more than that 5% of the glory they do see. Embrace it, cherish it, live it.

Paul Jarvis. I love how Paul Jarvis markets his products and grows his business. For me, he represents the idea that we don’t need to lose ourselves in the journey of achieving our own version of success.

Ramit Sethi and Primoz Bozic. I learned a lot from both of them but the most important takeaway is this: Adopt a professional attitude in everything you do. Set a high standard for yourself and don’t settle for less.

Derek Sivers. Here is a line from his “about” page that strikes me. This one sentence got me thinking about how I should spend my time:

“I feel the precious value of time, most of the time. I imagine my time as worth $500 an hour and ask myself what’s worth $500. Watching a TV show? Absolutely not. Social media? Absolutely not. Focused learning or creating? Yep! Being with my kid? Always.”

CGP Grey. I watched a couple of his YouTube videos this year. What resonates with me most is the video where he talks about protecting our attention. This made me rethink what I’m doing now versus what I really want to do now and in the future.

Other than the top five I mentioned above, I also got inspired by how Seth Godin approaches marketing, how Tynan writes, and how Basecamp approaches work.

Ultimately, the combination of these concepts leads me to my plans below. Many of them are high-level ideas without any structure at the moment. I’m sharing this because I think it’s important. I hope it sparks a similar realization in you, but even if it doesn’t, this list still serves as a reminder for myself in the near future.

We Become What We Want

The first step is to understand what really matters to me. In fact, I have a very clear picture of what is important to me and what I want to accomplish in life. I have listed them in Notion and go through them every morning.

It takes time to develop this. If you’re not clear on what matters to you yet, I suggest you start a daily journal. Jot down your thoughts, your feelings, and things you learn every day. It’s a great exercise to practice self-awareness and develop depth in your thinking.

We Become What We Do

A few weeks ago, I talked about Via Negativa — the idea of adding more to your life by subtracting. Before I dive into what I want to do more of, I’d first like to jot down the things I will remove to create more time and space.

  • Patreon. I like to first thank everyone who contributes to me in Patreon but it hasn’t been working for me. I’m going to remove it starting this month.
  • Facebook page. I don’t even use Facebook myself.
  • Social media posting. I’ll only be using Twitter to promote my work. Furthermore, I’m going to automate 90% of it.
  • Other vanity marketing tactics. The Internet is filled with endless marketing tips, tricks, and hacks. I’ve been ignoring them for the most part but now I’m going to consciously eliminate them.
  • Google Analytics, most likely. I’m thinking about moving to public analytics that respects users privacy (without cookies and tracking) such as Fathom.
  • Personal social media usage. My goal is to push this to close to zero.
  • Aimless Internet browsing. I want to use the Internet as a tool, not an extension of my identity. It’s very similar to how we approach money.

Generally, I’m trying to remove things that don’t work, things that don’t contribute to growth, and things that are irrelevant. This way, I regain the attention and space for what matters most.

  • Create great — both free and paid — content for you. How do I define great content? Articles and products that inspire you to change your beliefs and take action. Let me know whenever this happens.
  • Deliver the biggest possible impact to who I’m working with right now (the Sumo team)
  • Build great relationships, engagement, and trust with people online and offline.
  • Grow revenue for this blog. I’m going to actively create and test products that solve a pressing problem for you and other audiences.
  • Focus on growing my email list with highly-engaged readers like you.
  • Improve my health and accomplish my fitness goals. The baseline is to optimize my sleep, diet, and exercise. I will then work toward other fitness goals that I have.
  • Spend more time on meta-skills such as learning how to learn, getting better at meditation, and improving public speaking skills.
  • Do more of the things I enjoy doing such as reading and writing about self-improvement, no BS marketing, money, health, and more.

Final Thoughts

You can have anything you want, but not everything you want.

Ultimately, I’m going to write more — not just more empty content — but more content that resonates well with me and at the same time is valuable to you. I’ve been thinking about the idea of changing my writing style for a long time. One of which is to be more honest and authentic in my writing like I’m being in this article.

This makes me enjoy writing more. I also believe it could help shape my voice and further develop my confidence as a writer. On the other hand, as a reader myself, I’m more likely to lean toward writers who express themselves with authenticity.

Now, I’d love to hear more from you. How did you like this article? And what’s your experience in doing less to accomplish more? If this short piece about myself made you think, let me know.