Achieving an intentional focus to reach your goals is hard. Over the years, this list has helped me reach my goals.
Goals are abundant. Execution is the difference.
I define intentional focus as making a change in your daily schedule to achieve your goals. The difference can be minor or significant — but it's essential to deliberate and consistent. An example of a little change is reducing the hours you consume content (TV, Reddit, hckrnews) every day. An example of a significant change is writing for one hour every day. This article is one of those significant changes I am intentionally making.
Elevate your baseline
What you consume as media has a profound effect on how you think. Even random comments on Reddit affect you. Watch shows that are built by passionate actors, directors, creators. One reason I love watching "indie" cooking shows with varying production values is that you can see the raw passion of the indie chefs. You learn a lot more in the process.
Keep a Routine
(I didn't say schedule.)
A routine is the same or similar set of activities in roughly the same order and approximately the same time. But it's not by the clock. Your brain will automatically follow the next task in line if you have a similar schedule every day. Please write it down somewhere and stick it next to where you sit down to work. Handwrite it. It's simple but effective.
99% of the battle for me is to find what to do now. I have tried GTD and other methods, but what works for others didn't work for me, and conversely, what works for me may not work for you. However, some of what works for me may work for you. What that hope here's what I do:
I utilize Trello for my lists because I don't have to fight the tool. Use what works for you - even a text file works. I keep four columns: Tasks that take 5 minutes, 20 minutes, 2 hours, and someday. I use labels in Trello to filter tasks. Five-minute tasks are tasks that I can do from anywhere, my phone or iPad. If I am waiting in a line to grab lunch or waiting somewhere, I look at that list and quickly complete the task there. Similar for 20 minute and 2 hours tasks. The "someday" tasks I'll pull out to do if I am feeling incredibly generous :) or I attach a reward to it. If I finish this task, I can XYZ dopamine inducing things.
Being intentional does not have to be a chore.
Being intentional doesn't mean you set aside a day to sit down and complete your tasks. That will never work. We have conditioned ourselves to have dopamine bursts every tweet, Instagram post, or TikTok video. If you can write that, you can capture down your moment of clarity when you have one. Start something here or there on your phone. For example, I wrote the outline for this article five weeks ago in the Notes app on my phone midway, cutting grass in the backyard for writing this article. I have added, edited, removed, refined a bit every few days, sometimes from my phone, iPad, or laptop(rarely). But the important thing was to capture the thought, however unstructured, when I had it. The longest I have spent in one session writing this is today. I intend to publish it as soon as I finish this sentence.
What works for you? Let me know on Twitter @kunjanshah.