Good habits take focus
A few weeks ago I attended a conference where James Clear spoke. If you’re not familiar with him, James is a writer who covers topics like habits, routines and personal management. In just a few years he’s amassed a subscriber base of over 200k.
I found his talk helpful, although he didn’t say anything revolutionary. All of it I’m sure I heard before or read in a book. That being said, hearing it framed the way he put it was impactful.
Thought I would share my notes on James’ talk about focus and building good habits:
He told the story of Warren Buffet’s pilot who was asked (by Buffet) what he wanted to do for the rest of his career. The pilot, who had already flown in the air force and piloted several presidents, said he wanted to work for Buffet.
Buffet said if he was still his pilot in 5 years, Buffet would have failed him. Instead he ask the pilot to write down 25 things he wanted to accomplish over the rest of his career. Then he asked the pilot to rank them in order of importance/desire. The pilot did as he was instructed. Last, Buffet said to circle the first 5 and devote the rest of his life to accomplishing those things.
Then Buffet said, under no circumstances should he ever, ever, ever do the bottom 20.
The bottom 20 are all the things you could do but shouldn’t because they are distractions.
List your 25 things that you want to do in X amount of time. Focus on the top 5 only.
Rank & Prioritize:
Do the most important thing first. James told the story of an author who consulted with a company in the 1920’s. The consultant told the owner to pay him in 4 years what he thought the value of his advice was worth to his team of managers. The only instruction he gave the managers was to write down and prioritize what they needed to do the next day. Then do the number 1 first, number 2, and so on.
Design Your Environment:
Let your physical spaces assist you in building and maintaining the habits you want. Decrease the number of steps to good behaviors. Increase the number of steps to bad behaviors. In other words, make it easy to do good and hard to do bad. One example he gave was of a guy who wanted to eat less popcorn. So he moved the popcorn from the pantry to the top of a cabinet in the garage, hence increasing the number of steps to the behavior he was trying to decrease.
This also works for emotions, digital space, etc.
You cannot improve what you don’t measure. Give yourself visual cues to show progress.
James recommends weekly reviews of key metrics to see if what you’re doing is working.
Commit & Repeat:
The final step is to stay with the process. 1% improvements over time make up huge gains.
There you go.