Money is thought of as the most precious resource.
If only we could have more then everything would be better. But money isn’t the resource you want to focus on because it’s a byproduct of something else: focus.
If you can master focus then money will never be a problem for you. And you’ll experience true freedom, which is to have time to do whatever you want wherever you want.
If you fail to master focus then the digital renaissance will lead you into the digital dark ages, where your attention is prostituted out to the highest bidder.
Here are some ideas on focus that’ll help you save 4 hours a day which equals 20 hours a week.
Focus comes from a place of discomfort
You might be thinking “well, if learning how to focus can help me work 4 hours a day then why doesn’t everyone relearn how to do it?”
That’s a good question.
We don’t relearn how to focus because the act of focusing is one of the hardest skills to master.
To focus is uncomfortable. It requires discipline and it’s bloody hard work. In the current pillow-covered walls society that we live in, we’re encouraged to stay away from uncomfortable things.
It’s why trigger warnings were invented.
And there’s a wall of pillows for us to softly land on wherever discomfort may be. The challenge is discomfort is the birthplace of focus.
If you want to be insanely focused then you have to get good at how hard it feels to do it.
Think of it like this: deep focus is eating your vegetables. Being distracted is drinking alcohol every five minutes.
Normal pace is for chumps
When I worked an 8-hour workday it pissed me off.
The goals my team had could have been achieved faster. But as is the way in the corporate world, I had to turn these goals into never-ending projects that required back-to-back meetings to make progress.
It’s when I realized the normal timeline of popular goals acts as a boat anchor on your attention.
Turn your 5-year goals into 30-day goals.
You’ll probably fail and miss the deadline, but you’ll focus and work 10x better than if you accept mediocre timeframes.
The default “attention index fund”
An index fund takes your money and spreads it across hundreds of investments. Some will do good and some will do bad. Overall you’ll make a predictable small return and maybe retire at 65.
The issue is a lack of risk.
The same applies to our focus. The index fund way of life teaches us to divide our attention into hundreds of chunks, so no one task can blow up and destroy our life.
The challenge is the returns you get on that focus are low. There comes a point where you have to pick 1–3 priorities and stop trying to be successful at everything or hedge your bets.
Productivity expert Shane Parrish said it best:
Dividing your attention divides your results.
There are only 4 good hours in a day
The lie we’re told is we get 24 hours every day. But 8 hours are spent sleeping. Another 2 hours are spent keeping yourself alive.
And then out of whatever time you have left, those hours aren’t all equal. Why? Energy.
Most days we don’t have the energy to be hyper-focused and productive for 14 hours straight. We have about 4 good hours of energy in a day to direct towards 2–3 priorities before our best thinking is gone.
The rest of the day should be spent living life and relaxing. Once you understand this reality it reframes:
- When you work
- How long you work
- And your discipline around distractions
You don’t need more time, you need more focus
— Shane Parrish
Low-key plans make focus easier
Humans love to overplan and overthink.
As a result we hijack our focus before we’ve even started anything. I’ve found low-key plans work best.
It’s not that you strut around like a king or queen with no plans and execute for 4 hours a day like you’re a greek god. No.
It’s that you reduce the time from idea to execution by having back-of-the-envelope plans. Plans that provide direction but don’t require you to write a 5-year strategy doc before you get started.
A huge-ass plan makes it hard to focus because it creates a mental block in your mind that feels overwhelming to overcome.
You want your goals for the day to feel effortless and to be crystal clear in your mind, so you can use your limited energy for execution.
Have a baby
Okay, well, not really.
But learn from babies about how they focus on sleeping. When my daughter was born we noticed all the other parents had white-noise generators.
They’d carry them around in their prams and whip them out whenever their kid needed a sleep. So we bought one.
Now when it’s time for sleep, I crank the white noise in my daughter’s room to block out the noise of the world and help her focus on sleeping. The same works for adults.
In fact, in my house, it’s weird. If you come in during afternoon nap time, you’ll hear my daughter’s white noise machine pumping and my white noise coming out of my office speakers.
Use white noise to deepen focus.
Stay away from monkey mind stuff
We all have that one thing that turns on our monkey mind.
For some, it’s TikTok or the tweet app. For me, it’s Youtube. Once it turns on I can’t stop and the algorithm knows it — and loves it.
Identify what your monkey mind task is and avoid it at all costs.
A lack of focus is why we have a lack of greatness.
— Jerry Seinfeld
The hidden power of constraints
Ultimately, we use our 4 hours of focus a day to exercise our creativity.
(And yes, creativity even applies to work tasks like spreadsheets — anything can be art.)
White Stripes guitarist Jack White once said:
Constraints make you creative…Telling yourself you have all the time in the world, all the money in the world, all the colors in the palette, anything you want — that just kills creativity.
So we want to have constraints. We want to set a timer or have an artificial deadline with our 4 hours of deep work.
We want to pre-make a few decisions beforehand, so we don’t have to make critical decisions while in a flow state doing the best work of our lives.
Constraints unlock more focus. Use them.
Understand how attention residue bleeds your focus dry
Let’s finish here with a nerdy one.
When we shift our focus from one task to another it creates a mental load. With every switch from one task to a new task, there’s residue left over from the old task. If you switch tasks enough times then that residue builds up.
That build-up leads to a huge leakage of energy, time, and focus. And this is how most of corporate America is taught to operate.
The final takeaway here is simple: Stop task-switching.
- Batch together similar tasks
- Delete tasks that aren’t connected to your top 2–3 priorities
- Do more, not less
Those who avoid the plague of attention residue successfully get to work 4 hours a day and save 20 hours a week.