This is the last warm-up lesson before Cal Newport and I reopen our popular course, Life of Focus. During the three months of the course, we’ll guide you through structured exercises designed to increase the quality of your time spent at work—and at home.
The quality of your life is determined by what you choose to pay attention to.
Attention determines your work. It determines whether you make strides on meaningful, challenging projects, or waste your hours on frivolous tasks. It determines whether you get everything done in a timely manner, leaving your evenings free, or feel compelled to push work into nights and weekends to get things done.
Attention determines your mood. It determines whether you feel inspired and engaged to help those around you or spend your days afraid or angry at the things you cannot change.
Attention determines your relationships. It determines whether you cultivate deeper relationships with the people who matter most or are checked out and distant.
Attention determines your experience.
Ultimately, our lives boil down to the things we pay attention to. We direct the narrow window of our minds toward some things and not others, and our lives are a series of choices about which things we focus on.
Unfortunately, attention is also largely automatic. We don’t usually make a deliberate choice about what to pay attention to. Instead, our attention is driven by instincts that evolved over millions of years, in an environment that barely resembles our modern life—instincts that are sometimes counterproductive in our modern world.
Building a life of focus isn’t about eliminating entertainment, focusing excessively on personal productivity or adopting a monomaniacal obsession. Instead, it’s more basic: it’s about reclaiming some of our attention and aiming it at the things we choose, rather than the things that have been chosen for us.
In work, a life of focus means that you deliberately decide what matters, not just checking off the to-do list, but doing the work that will become your legacy.
At home, a life of focus means you cultivate attention for the people and activities that enrich your life, and leave out the stuff that leaves you feeling empty, anxious or angry.
In your mind, a life of focus means you learn and build, rather than just passively consume.
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Next week, Cal Newport and I will be reopening our course, Life of Focus. The course is a three-month program designed to help you reclaim your attention. In the first month, we’ll increase our capacity for deep work—the sustained attention and engagement needed to do what matters. In the second month, we’ll do a digital declutter, rethinking our relationship with social media and electronic devices, learning and keeping what enriches our lives and leaving out what doesn’t. Finally, in the third month, we’ll tackle a project to learn or build something valuable to us—we’ll use the time and energy we’ve gained to engage deeply in something we can be proud of.
Life of Focus is our most popular course for a reason. I hope to see you in the course, and we can start building a life of focus together!