A couple of things to help me focus

Nearly two months since I started my “focus” theme for 2018 and there a few things that have helped me immensely.

The Perfect Notebook
I’m a huge fan of behavioural economist Dan Ariely (I have all his books and even his card game), so when I learned about his Kickstarter campaign to develop the perfect notebook, I signed up right away!

I’m the kind of person who survives by writing lists. While this worked, to a certain extent, it was sometimes hard to keep track of the bigger picture.

Enter this notebook. At first, I was overwhelmed because it had a system, but once I got the hang of it, it’s been super helpful!

Every couple of weeks, I think about my goals for those week and set up my dashboard. Three work goals, and some personal goals that don’t really change (spending time with people who matter most to me, exercise, meditation, and my two main skill goals — baking/cooking and sewing). For each day in that period, I fill out a daily schedule where I lay out my tasks. At the end of each day, I assess if I’ve done things to bring me closer to my goal and mark it on my dashboard. It’s a great visual reminder for me to see which aspects of my life I’m not taking care of.

So far, I’ve been pretty lax at meditation and baking/cooking and sewing. 🙁 Need to spend more time on those things… But anyway, I’ve only been using it for a month so far and I feel so much more focused and productive at work. And while my life is still a bit lopsided, it doesn’t feel as unbalanced as it used to. Highly recommend this notebook, or using a similar daily/dashboard system to keep track of everyday!

Deep Work – Cal Newport
This book pretty much encapsulates what I’m trying to do with my entire year.

It talks about how pretty much everyone is on “distracted” mode. Always checking their phones, always doing quick Internet checks, unable to sit still and really work. It talks about setting aside time to really focus on the experience at hand, whether it’s work or enjoying the company of people around me. (But mostly around work. It is called Deep Work, after all.)

My work has become more challenging (in a good way), and because I do not want to work overtime I know I have to work smarter and be more disciplined in how I spend my time.

I know I’ve been posting about this before, and I seem to have read a lot of books on the subject already — but the thing is, continuously reading books like these is a great reminder when I’ve fallen off the wayside. I’m honestly proud of myself because I’ve been able to read more books the past couple of years, plus I know that I’ve been less addicted to the Internet — but at the same time, there’s a long way for me to go!

I was thinking about what I wanted this blog to be, and I realised I don’t really want it to be a “self development journey” chronicle, so here’s something personal:

I wasn’t supposed to pick up “Deep Work” just yet, because I’m still working my way through Robert Sapolsky’s “Behave.”

It’s a great introduction to human behaviour, picking apart the interplay between environment, brain chemistry, and genes. It’s full of really interesting tidbits (such as why teenagers act the way they do, or the mating habits of spotted hyenas) but just a tad heavy — I had to stop reading one of the chapters to complete Appendix 1: Neuroscience 101.

It’s a great book, just… massive. It’s so massive I’ve reached my limit at renewing the book, so I better finish it by March 10th.

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