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Focus: A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction

Focus: A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction

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Published by dil_najm
By Leo Babauta.

Copyright-free, public domain, permission given by the author:
By Leo Babauta.

Copyright-free, public domain, permission given by the author:

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Published by: dil_najm on Aug 11, 2011
Copyright:Public Domain


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“Success demands singleness of purpose.”

– Vince Lombardi

When you set your sights on a large target, broad in scope, you spread

yourself thin. This is why the best companies are those with a laser
focus. They do less, but they do it better.

Apple is a good example of this — they don’t try to tackle every computer
niche. They don’t make netbooks or low-end PCs, for example. They have a
very small product line for such a big company. And yet, they do extremely
well — they make beautiful, well-made, high-functioning devices that
customers absolutely love. And they make billions to boot. That’s just one
example of many.

A narrower focus allows you to do a better job — to be better than anyone
else, perhaps, at the narrower thing that you’re good at.

The Danger of a Broad Focus

One of the biggest problems many people have in their careers, with work
projects, with their businesses, is too broad of a focus. Just a few examples:

»Working on too many projects and trying to juggle your time between

all of them.

»Adding too many features to your software and creating a bloated


»Trying to do everything for every customer, and spreading yourself

too thin.


»Trying to be everything for everybody, but ending up being nothing


»Trying to please all your bosses and coworkers and forgetting what’s


»Communicating all the time via email, several social networks,

phones, text messaging, cell phones, faxes and more … and never
communicating with any depth.

Again, there are lots of other ways to have a focus that’s too broad. In
the end, it’s a choice between trying to do everything but doing it poorly, or
doing only a tiny amount of things really well.

Take Stock

What’s your current focus at work? Are you a writer involved in a
whole range of writing projects at once? Are you a developer trying to offer
something that appeals to everyone and solves every problem? Do you try
to satisfy every possible customer, even if most of those possibilities are the
exception rather than the rule?

Whatever your focus, take a closer look at it. What do you focus on
that’s absolutely essential, and what isn’t as important? Figure out your top
priorities, and also think about how much time you allocate to each of these

What are the possibilities of narrowing your focus? Of dropping some
features or catering to a smaller group of customers or doing fewer things
for fewer people? How hard would that be? What would need to be done to
make that happen?

Narrowing Focus

Now that you’ve identifed your top priorities, the hard part is done.

Not that narrowing focus is always easy — especially when you have team
members or management involved who don’t quite get it.


In that case, it’ll take some convincing. Show them examples of companies
or projects that excelled with a smaller focus, and the problems of too broad
a focus.

Be unrelenting.

If you have control over your focus, and the focus of what you work on,
you’re lucky. Now it just takes some guts, and perhaps some time. You don’t
need to change everything overnight. That’s the power of small changes —
you can slowly narrow your focus. Slowly do less, one thing at a time, and
you’ll see how it can transform your work.

When you drop one feature at a time, do one less type of service, do
one fewer project at a time … it’s not so hard. And the improvements that
come with the smaller focus will encourage you to continue to simplify, until
you’ve found the smallest focus that works for you.



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