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Focus… on what truly matters.

in Do What You Love, People & Products, Videos

Lately, I’ve been bombarded with external influences on “focusing on what truly matters”.

No matter where I go or what I do… motives around this issue pop up. In the last few weeks, I’ve been deeply touched by text, audio, video, and even stories from random strangers – all with this central theme.

It’s one of those cases where it feels like someone somewhere is trying to send me a signal. I don’t walk around life thinking the Universe itself is trying to communicate with me… but at times like this it’s hard not to feel like just that is happening!

So, I’m going to continue to share it with you guys. In today’s post I’m sharing a new book, an amazing TedX video, and a captivating blog post that have had the biggest impact.

Leo Babauta’s new book – “Focus”.

Last week, Leo sent me a full premium copy of his new book Focus.  Leo is the founder of ZenHabits.net – one of the largest and most respected blogs anywhere on the internet – and best-selling author of The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential, in Business and in Life.

Leo’s new book, Focus, has a text version that is 100% free. Yeah, it’s a no-brainer on that one.

He also has a premium version available that includes bonus chapters from him, bonus chapters from guest authors, five how-to videos, PDF guides, and audio interviews with David Allen, Seth Godin, and Dave Navarro.

While Leo sent me a free premium version, I enjoyed Focus so thoroughly that I actually went and paid for a premium copy in full myself. I don’t get paid a dime for recommending Focus – I just genuinely find it valuable!

I invited Leo to join us for a video interview. He accepted, however our connection on Skype that day wasn’t great. The video was clearly cutting out even as we recorded.

No problem… we’ll switch to audio. We recorded a great 15 minute audio interview for you, however upon running it back – Leo’s audio is choppy throughout that, as well. Oh well!

So as an alternative, I decided to record a video myself recounting the major talking points of our conversation – and my personal thoughts – around distractions, email, single-tasking, and tools to help you focus:

Note: I know many of you have requested transcripts – I’m listening! I tried to have one done for this video, but it was too low of quality. I’m still working at finding a good transcription company solution. I’ll committed to getting these for you, but I messed up today!  By next video… scout’s honor.  :-)

In lieu of a full transcript here are some benchmarks so you can skip around if you like:

  • [0:40] – My plug for Leo Babauta new book, Focus.
  • [2:05] - Top distractions in Leo and my life. Replacing “bad” distractions with “good” distractions.
  • [3:30] – Tips for processing email. Setting expectations. Art of the short email.
  • [6:10] - Single-tasking in an age of Muli-tasking
  • [7:35] – Leo’s top “tools” he leverages to focus and single-task.
  • [9:10] – Leo’s question for you: “What are your biggest distractions?”

Keep Going Until We Stop…

So, I knew *of* Scott Stratten and his brand “UnMarketing” (blog and book) before I saw the talk below. Honestly, though, I only sparingly followed his posts and tweets – and hadn’t read the book yet. Marketing is part of my business, but I don’t necessarily go around following marketing blogs and thought leaders very much (maybe I should more).

A couple people recommended Scott’s speech below, so “I’ll listen to the first little bit” I thought. “I like TedX talks for the most part.”

Holy cow… not only did I listen to every word – I teared up twice during the speech. Not a word of it is about marketing – at all. I absolutely loved it. Afterward, I subscribed to Scott’s blog, added him to priority list on Twitter, and bought his book. I’m a new raving fan and disappointed it took me this long to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Best thing about this speech above is that it isn’t inclusive of any one type of person. We *all* go through the crap Scott talks about. It applies to people who work day jobs, side jobs, online jobs, and own businesses. It’s about life – and how we try to rush through it.

Look, if you can’t tell, I think it’s really, really good. It’s stuff like this that push me into want to speak myself more and more. I want to be able to communicate a message like this.

Awesome. Scott, if you are reading this, I’m impressed. Very impressed.

Unicorns, rainbows and work-life balance…

Lastly, the can’t miss blog post on this subject (one of the best in the last few months in my opinion in this area) came from Pam Slim.

Stop now. Click here –> Read Pam’s Full Post.

It’s a reflection on a particular exhausting day of juggling kids, work, big picture thinking, details, friends, events, exercise, spouses, and… life. It’s like a buffet of awesomeness – a little portion of everything about life that just had me going “Uh-huh…” a dozen times as I read it.

Here’s an excerpt of one of my favorite parts. I love Pam’s writing:

Do I enjoy my life while I am living it?

When you step outside in the morning, do you take a deep breath and marvel at the wonder that the sun keeps coming up each day? Do you watch your kids (or pets!) intently and notice how perfect they are in their own quirky way? Do you ever look at your bank account and marvel that one person, let alone many, were motivated enough to give you some of their hard-earned money? Do you reflect on how amazing it is that the random thoughts in your mind can come out through your fingers, onto a magical virtual page that, when published, reaches tens of thousands of people, and is indexed by the Big Google God in the Sky so anyone, anywhere with access to the search box can find you?

If you hate most of what you are doing most of the time, and miss the beauty of a full moon or the smile of a stranger because you are so busy rushing around, you may want to slow down and pay attention.

As Josh told me the other day:

“You Anglos are always rushing.”

You really should read the rest of the post here. I loved it, as well.

What are *YOUR* biggest distractions?

I’ve talked about some of my distractions and shared three resources that have really helped me focus.  They’ve helped me focus on the real work in my business and helped me focus on what really matters in my life.

What about you?

photo by visualpanic

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason October 28, 2010 at 11:40 AM

Me.

I’m my biggest distraction. I find myself hilarious and I often spend hours looking at myself in the mirror, wishing I was me. Sometimes when I’m deep in the “bring it” attitude I tap myself on the shoulder and say, “Hey. Video games?”. And then the day is lost.

Seriously though, my biggest distraction is my love for damn near ALL subjects and my somewhat annoying urge to learn EVERYTHING I can about them. And the internets don’t help…lousy bastion of knowledge that it is…

Most of the time looking into my empty wallet helps me focus, other times call for a giant glass of Kava. :)

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Dustin | Fit Marriage October 28, 2010 at 12:18 PM

My biggest issue with focusing is breaking free of the multi-tasking mentality. It is just so tempting to leave my email open, check in on Twitter, hop over to respond to blog comments, switch back to my email, all while I am supposed to be sitting down to write a blog post for one of my sites.

I’m getting better about it, but it’s still a struggle!

By the way, I’m interviewing Leo next week for Fit Marriage on the topic of effective fitness for busy folks. I hope our Skype connection is better than what you experienced!

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RJ Weiss October 28, 2010 at 12:44 PM

Awesome post Adam.

I also saw a bunch of people tweeting about Scott’s speech, after about the 80th time I knew I had to watch. All I can say is that I’m grateful, I did.

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Thursday Bram October 28, 2010 at 12:48 PM

Distractions… oh, I’ve got those. My problem is that I’m an idea factory. I can listen to a fifteen minute talk and come away with twenty new ideas for businesses, all of which I *know* will make money. You should see the notes I brought back from BlogWorld — there is a huge number of them.

The real distraction comes in when I try to decide where I need to be focusing. With all those cool new ideas, why should I go back to an idea that I had a hear ago? This, by the way, is the main reason I’m still taking clients — I can give them my ideas :)

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Arthur Meijer October 28, 2010 at 1:14 PM

Hey Baker, another great post. Sometimes these things seem all come together, just like in your life. In mine, people die one after another (sounds cruel, sorry about that). I am lucky they aren’t relatives, but stil respected and adored those people.
Those passings made me think about what important to me too. Seems that money is not at all important to me, but I am a Purchasing Manager right now, that always has to go for the lowest price… Seems a bit contradionary.
I’m thinking about looking for a much more fullfilling job, spend more time with loved ones etcetera.
Because I’m not really liking my job right now, everything seems a distraction: e-mail, blogs, news. I actually enjoy being distracted by my colleagues.
Distraction or focus to me means that you’re really linking something. I remember me reading books when I was about 9 years old, nothing could distract me. One could sound an alarm and I’d still keep on reading.
I’d love to get that kind of focus back!!!

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Jesse October 28, 2010 at 1:25 PM

My no. 1 distraction is often co-workers. Our office is not ideal for focus.

My second biggest distraction is the internet. I love checking my Google Reader, Instapaper, “window shopping” online, Facebook, Twitter, etc. I’ve significantly minimized Facebook’s importance in my life. I spend about 10 – 15 minutes a day on it. Twitter I spend probably 15 – 20 staring at it. I don’t really see this as being a negative nor do I plan on changing it. Google Reader and Instapaper however I can spend upwards of 2 hours some days catching up on blogposts or reading articles.

While reading and staying informed is a positive, not getting work done or skipping a work out is not.

I appreciate everything that you and Leo do. You are both heroes to me. Keep doing what you’re doing and I hope to follow in your footsteps.

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Mike Donghia (Art of Minimalism) October 28, 2010 at 1:43 PM

Baker, man you’re getting sentimental on us ;)

You are so right on with this post, I honestly think I need to sit down and reevaluate matters in my life – what really matters. Time is slippery like that, we don’t know much we’ve got and even those of us who *may* have a full life to live don’t have much time. What are we gonna do with it?

Thanks for writing about the serious stuff on this blog along with the fun stuff. I truly enjoy reading your latest stuff. rock on baker!

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Doctor S October 28, 2010 at 3:28 PM

My biggest distraction is myself, my own mind. I have trouble concentrating on one concept/idea/situtation at one time. It’s almost like my brain is working on something and then it sees something shiny and goes “Oooooh look at that!!!”

It carries over into every aspect life: work, family, blogging, social. I gotta pick one thing at a time, multitasking is becoming our biggest hurdle b/c we just get so “used to it” it becomes the norm. I need to learn to pick one thing and get it done.

I will def be purchasing this book and will provide some feedback of my own on it! Just give me a few months, I am having trouble finishing a whole book at the moment!

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Stanley Lee October 28, 2010 at 4:06 PM

Left you a tweet already. Give Amazon’s Mechanical Turk a try (the cheapest option out there according to Seth Godin’s books anyway).

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Kevin M October 28, 2010 at 4:47 PM

Pam is a smart lady, thanks for passing that along. I can’t answer “yes” to all her questions, looks like I have something to work on.

I’m going to try to watch the video at home tonight.

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Lou Mindar October 28, 2010 at 5:04 PM

Baker —

Thanks for the videos. Really good stuff!

I do most of my work from home, so most of my distractions involve home stuff; paying bills, cutting the grass, grabbing something unhealthy out of the refrigerator. It’s easy to get distracted when there are things staring you in the face that need to get done.

I know I have a real problem with distractions, so in recent months I have addressed the problem. I have begun holding myself to a higher standard and I have started to expect more out of myself. I’m not always perfect. Distractions still can get in the way from time to time, but recognizing the problem and staying aware of it seems to really help.

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Pamela Slim October 28, 2010 at 5:25 PM

Thanks for the shout out Adam!

Loved Scott’s video (I bawled like a baby), and Leo’s book sounds great.

Seems like every other person I talk to is dealing with the balance issue. Could we all say “systemic issue!” together?

:)
-Pam

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Ben October 28, 2010 at 7:33 PM

I don’t have problems with distractions per say; however, my problem with focus is not knowing what to focus on. I have lots of interests and ideas, but my problem is choosing one and sticking to it.

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David Wang October 29, 2010 at 12:18 AM

Great list of links. I also came across these links this week and really enjoyed Pam & Scott’s posts.

My biggest distraction is working at home. It’s a choice that I made, and I love it, but my kid, couch & tv are just too close. Twitter & email are also big distractions.

But I’ve also seen the trends to get focused (I think Dave Navarro started it) and do what really matters. And so despite the distractions, working from home is great because it reminds me that what really matters is just outside my office door :)

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Playstead October 29, 2010 at 3:30 AM

I’m with Scott. My biggest distraction is not being in the moment, and always worrying about what I’m not doing. It’s a killer … and it’s changing. Thanks for sharing the video — great message.

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Mirella October 29, 2010 at 5:17 AM

It’s so true how life slowly falls apart when our focus is all out of whack.

Society is designed to steal our focus from what’s important. In the western world life is about striving, about goals, about getting somewhere, rather than just being and experiencing. We have designed a culture for ourselves that we don’t really want, one that makes us sick.

And what a powerful question, “do I enjoy my life while I’m living it?” This simple question will really sort out if your focus is where you truly want it to be.

Thanks for another thought provoking post!

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Shannon Steffen - SKS Designs October 29, 2010 at 7:18 AM

Awesome post!

I’m a friend of Scott Stratten’s and finally got around to seeing that same video yesterday. I already knew some of the stuff that he talks about in the video and, although some was new, it was the voice and energy that he spoke in that drove me to tears. It was like a part of him was begging everyone to open their eyes to what’s important and to realize how to make a difference in the lives of those around us.

I sent a quick private tweet to Scott afterwards saying how I was speechless and thanking him from the bottom of my heart. His reply was classic Scott: “My pleasure :)”

I’m grateful to have friends like that in my life and I am grateful for blog posts, like yours, that continue to open my eyes. Thank you!

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Patty October 29, 2010 at 11:26 AM

Distraction? I no longer have the ability to hold a thought for more than a few seconds. i jump. from. here. to. there. and. back. again. I feel like my brain, as a muscle, has no tone, no definition, and no ability to hold onto a thought for 10 seconds without jumping to something else. While typing this, I noticed the jackhammering outside my window, thought about getting up for a drink, wondered when someone going to answer that darn phone… and Oh! I need to email Bob. It’s like a constant noise machine coming from inside my head… The distraction is that I don’t know how to turn it off.

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Steve @ The Debt Solution October 29, 2010 at 2:08 PM

Focus is very important or nothing will get finished. I use to have a big problem with starting things and not finishing them. It was due to focus. I would focus on starting but not finishing. I would let other things come into my life and I would start another thing and not finish the other thing I started a week or two ago.

My solution was to not allow any other things to come into my life until I at least finish what I started or had it under complete control. Regardless if I would win or lose. This has taught me a very important lesson.

1. Finish everything I start – regardless of the outcome.
2. Only do what you can truly handle – regardless of the added opportunity.

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B Minor October 30, 2010 at 10:20 AM

My BIGGEST distraction is stayin’ in my comfort zone.
I feel like I distract myself so I don’t have to do the essential work like getting out of the house and talking to people.

Thanks Baker for all of the great work!

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David October 30, 2010 at 1:08 PM

Hi Baker this is not exactly on topic but..I thought you’d be just the person to ask:

would you be able to recommend a good online organiser? I need one place online where I can write all my appointments and be able to share documents with my workmates…could you let me know either by email or in a post?

Best wishes

David

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Sue October 30, 2010 at 3:55 PM

Adam, have you checked out fiverr.com? Folks offering services $5? I know some IM’s who have had webinars transcribed using this site ($5 for 20 minutes). I’ve also had used the service myself with good luck.

Peace,
Sue :)

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Jenna November 1, 2010 at 5:04 PM

Wow! Thanks for sharing the information about this book! I’ll have to check out the free text version! How much does the premium version cost?

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Leigh November 2, 2010 at 6:39 AM

Just got around to watching Scott’s Tedx talk. Holy wow. I also teared up. Phenomenal, thanks for passing along.

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Ramblings of a Woman November 2, 2010 at 10:11 PM

I have downloaded Leo’s new book, but haven’t gotten very far yet! I look forward to it!
I watched Scott’s video, very awesome and affirming. I also kept going and didn’t stop, until my body screached to a halt from a nervous breakdown. I am currently recovering and learning to think and live differently.
Bernice
http://bernicewood.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/the-perfectly-imbalanced-life/

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Bill November 2, 2010 at 11:35 PM

I have a great lead for a transcriptionist. Send me a note if you are still looking.

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justin guzman November 3, 2010 at 1:30 AM

Baker, Just wanted to post for any of you lazy bottoms out there this book by Leo, Rocks!! and you know what you get most of the book free!! I would suggest paying for the premium as it includes very impactful content check out the free version and if it suits you buy his premium. Thanks for posting it up dude.

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Steven November 3, 2010 at 2:33 PM

One distraction I welcome is when my dogs come up to me and roll-over for a belly rub.

And I too have been trying to send out shorter emails.

“When words are scarce they are seldom spent in vain”

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