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Thoughts on Focusing and Reducing


Something that I have found myself thinking about the past month is the journey we all take in our work, play, creative output and process. Not a small topic for sure, but I realized something it was all trying to teach me to do so I can improve everything I do and how I do it. Two simple words came from thinking about this.

Reduce and Focus

Now some will consider the following to be a selfish way to deal with the everyday stuff, but it’s OK to put yourself first some times.

Reduce

It can be hard to commit to just the essentials, as creative people we are dreamers and thinkers and we allow that to push us in many directions. There are times every so often that I think we need to hit the reset button and pull ourselves back in a little so here are a few tips I am exploring, I have included links where relevant but I am not sponsored or endorsing, I simply just use the stuff and like it.

  • Pick the one software package that does what you want i.e. do not keep switching between 5 text editors and this weeks new craze. At the end of it code, blog posts and note talking all just involve simple text, so find a tool with the time saving features you want and use it. For me I’m finding that markdown works great for me and requires no special tools to write but there are a few like Byword and BBEdit that can help you until you know the syntax.
  • Find a pen and pad that you like and stick with them unless there is a reason to change if you are an analog person, also keep them with you. My honesty to myself makes me accept my memory is not as good as my written words.
  • Gather your notes regularly, be them digital or analog in one place and keep it with you all the time, I try very hard to either be analog or digital but not both at the same time. For me it comes down to a nice fountain pen and carrying a moleskine notebook around.
  • If you find something is making you unhappy then consider stopping yourself from doing it, for example if you find your blog / social posts have become more a chore than a pleasure then maybe you need to step away for a while. Readers will appreciate quality and lack of it will shine through if they follow you regularly. It will most likely only push you into a creative hole as well over time and you might start resenting it.

Focus

Some times getting focus can be harder than you think, one can not simply throw a switch and it turns on, any coder that gets interrupted in the middle of working a problem knows this only too well … pay attention mangers, parents, teachers and overlords :)

A few tips to consider.

  • Realize the things you really want to do and are passionate about, those are the ones you need to focus on. It is all too easy these days to get distracted and buy into the new craze whatever it may be. For example my core passions are learning Swift, the web and coding, art and design, playing guitar and photography. These are the things that help me relax and get inspired to create, I regularly rotate around them depending on my mood on any given day. Now that said, do not ignore family and friends.
  • If need be set aside some time to achieve focus on some thing you want to do, perhaps you need to dedicate an hour a day to reading all those things you marked to go back too or maybe you wanted to learn to play an instrument so set aside some time to practice and stick with it. After a while you will notice that focus comes easier with a routine for some things.
  • Remember that despite you're best desires you might not be able to do everything and that is OK. Some things have to go on that list to come back to another time. For example there are a ton of programming languages that interest me but I simply do not have the space to allocate any real focus on them at the moment. I would also love to be able to do water color painting but I simply do not have the mental space to deal with some thing new at this time.
  • Lists, lists, lists. I am an avid lister, I use paper and pen most of the time but also use OmniFocus for Mac and iOS. Lists enable me to keep my head clear without having to remember everything and constantly shuffle data in my head until it becomes relevant. The plus side is you are now using project management, great for work and great for Christmas shopping :)

Most importantly, it is OK to say to yourself that sometimes you simply have to let things go. This is not a failure, it is an honest recognition of where you are at and it is not a permanent decision cast in stone for all time, just add it to the some day maybe list.

Maybe this post sparks some thoughts for you and maybe it does not, but for me I was honest enough to put it in words and share with myself and everyone else.