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You Have To Focus

Colin Stuckert

"Great things are done by a series of small things brought together."

-Vincent Van Gogh

Today I want to talk about patience.

In our modern age, humans are notoriously impatient. After all, we can connect to the Internet and call forth just about anything on demand. 

Any movie, song, article, book, fact, quote, research paper, whatever. That’s pretty amazing if you think about it. 

We now have access to more information than you or I could process in a thousand lifetimes… at our fingertips!

This was not the case 20 years ago...

20 years ago, you would have to get in your car, drive to the library, speak to a librarian, and if a book wasn’t available, place a transfer order to have the book shipped to the library so you could check it out a week or two later.

If you wanted to watch a movie not in the theaters, you would have to the same thing at your local Blockbuster. (Ah, those were the days.)

If you wanted to communicate with a business college or friend, you’d have to send a letter with an actual stamp or you’d have to call them and talk on the phone (shocking, I know).

Nowadays, we can do all of these things in seconds. Literally, less than a freaking minute I can download a book, start a movie, listen to any song, and send a message or email to anyone in the world. 

And I love it. I love this power and I bet you do too.

That said, technology comes with some negatives. The main ones being we have become a constantly connected, on-demand, impatient and distracted culture of people that can’t listen, rarely take the time to stop and smell the roses, and often forget what life’s all about.

You’d think that this overwhelming access to opportunity and information made possible by the web would be giving more people the ability to become better, more aware, more knowledge, and more successful human beings. Unfortunately, I don’t think it has changed people, as a general whole, all that much.

The same percentage of success-minded individuals will end up being successful as it’s always been (or only slightly more of a %). The same number of middle-class, hard-working people will live out their days as a middle-class, hardworking citizens.

I think that more people will become “successful” as a result of the opportunities that our connected world provides, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near where it could be.

Why is this?

I think that the on-demand, constantly connecting, instant-gratification nature of our society has made people impatient and out of touch with what success actually takes. Success takes time and patience; it takes years. 

The Internet has allowed the process to be speed up tremendously (Zuckerberg for example), but aside from the “one hit wonders” of the Internet, successful is still a slow, gradual process that takes more time and effort than what most people are willing to commit.

To be successful in anything, you have to be patient and respect the process. And in our society, these traits are becoming extinct with each passing day.

But that’s not the only thing working against most people. It’s also the vast amount of distraction that assaults our senses. With so much vying or our attention, you have to be more focused than ever to get anything done. If you aren;t able to prioritize how you are spending your time, you’ll never be able to get anything done (which is why I turn off all notifications when working.) 

When you have limitless options at your disposal, your brain creates a nagging voice in the back of your head that I call “choice anxiety.” (Maybe someone else calls it that, but I didn’t want to Google it.) When you have choice anxiety—which is made worse when you have a million distracting notifications going off—you aren’t able to do your best work. Your mind is constantly thinking about what else you could be doing. 

There is a study that suggests it takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the same mental work-state you were before being interrupted. That’s crazy. And the thing is, interruptions most often come from our own mind: we check our phone, or our messages, or our email and bounce around from thing to thing in a completely haphazard way. This is the worst way to get anything done. Really, the worst.

You have to focus.

Then there’s multitasking. Brain scientist point out that there is actually no such thing as “multitasking,” and instead call it “task switching.” This means that your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. So when you move between tasks, you are just switching tasks and not really doing both things at once. There is also research that suggests multitasking lowers your IQ by 15 points, which puts most people in the range of an 8-year-old child. Damn.

My Advice:

1. Block out time every day to focus on your work. 

2 hours a day of focus, distraction-ere work spent on your work can change your life.

2. Turn off those freaking notifications. 

No matter what you are doing, turn off those notifications and stop “task switching.” Notifications and distractions make you dumber, less effective, and believe it or not, raise your cortisol levels and stress you out. It’s all bad news bears.

3. Be patient and embrace the process.

Getting better at work, with your business, in your relationships or in personal development, takes time and patience. Your body and brain grow only when given time to grow. You have to give each the time to recoup, recover and supercompensate (a weightlifting term meaning to grow above the original baseline). 

Think of your body like a redwood tree. Those things grow massive over hundreds and hundreds of years. Your body and mind are like the redwood tree; water it, nourish it and watch it grow a little bit each day.