Life is full of goals and activities that take repeated, consistent actions.
You cannot write a book — you can only write one sentence at a time.
You cannot build a business — you can only work on improving one small aspect at a time.
You cannot make a friend — it takes dozens (possibly hundreds) of interactions over a significant period.
And so, there is an emergent strategy that comes from this fact.
We must focus on what we are doing now. We can only work in the present, so there is nothing else to focus on — but there can be a tendency to be immobilized because of the size of the problem we are tackling.
Instead of getting stuck, we just need to focus on doing our best on the task at hand and temporarily forget the bigger picture.
This insight hints at a good tactic for increased productivity and general life satisfaction. Split up your planning activities from your execution. When you are in the middle of something, you don’t want to spend any time in self-doubt. You don’t want to be second-guessing whether you are spending time on something useful and how this fits into the bigger picture of your work or your life.
Instead, have a separate session where you create a list of things to do for the coming week — Sunday night is great for this — and ensure that these actions are aligned with your longer-term goals and aspirations.
A question I ask myself when I plan my week is — how would I feel a week from now if I had accomplished everything on my list? Would I feel that I positively used 1/4000th of my life?
And so, if you get the planning right, everything else can go smoothly. You can jump into your work without worrying if you spend your time on low-value activities because you have already decided that what you are working on is a high-value activity. Then, the only thing left to do is to focus and try and do the absolute best you can on the task at hand.
I find that this can feel quite meditative at times. After all, meditation focuses attention back on itself. So it is an activity based on controlling attention — which is no different than if you are focussed on any specific activity.