A big struggle of mine has always been the need to do lots of different things. There is so much to keep us busy in this crazy world that can drag us in many directions.
The problem with this is that it’s easy to lose focus. We end up doing less of more. We distract ourselves with the other things we want to do and work on. We become Jacks of All Trades, which is ok, but this can be at the expense of being a master at something and getting ahead and standing out in something specific.
Doing many different things can also mean losing faith in our projects and giving up altogether if we don’t see the progress we were hoping.
It is hard to totally cut out stuff from our lives if we simply must do them.
So what are some ideas for getting ahead and succeeding while still being able to juggle a few other tennis balls?
Here are some ideas:
Have a main dish, with side dishes
I like to work on a few things at a time, but I make sure that I spend most of my time on one key thing, which is my main dish. 75% of my (work/career-related) time and energy is put towards my main dish.
This allows me to stay focused on one thing, develop a craft and build something worthwhile. I will then dedicate about 25% of my time and energy to what I call side-dishes: extra projects and hobbies.
Side dishes can move around and be replaced, but I also ensure there is something fundamental that I’m spending my time on over the year: the main dish.
If you can’t figure out what your main dish should be at this stage, don’t worry, most people don’t. All you need to do is decide, and you will know over time what is worth more of your time over what is not. You would then adapt accordingly, bearing in mind that it can take a long time for projects fruitful, so stay with them.
Become a Micro-Master
If you, like me, like to try out new things, but don’t have the time to go deep with any of them (except, of course, your main dish), then explore how you can develop mastery in a tiny, niche part of what you’re interested in.
For example, you could start by getting good at cooking an omelet if you want to get into cooking; or learning ‘just’ the characters in Japanese (I’m currently learning Thai characters – trying my best anyway!).
This means you gain the sense of accomplishment; you can stack little ‘wins, ’and you can impress your friends without devoting half your life to each thing at the ‘macro’ level.
Read Robert Twigger’s book: ‘MicroMastery’ for more ideas.
Use Time Blocks
Unless you’re supremely focused or some ninja monk, you probably work on more than one thing in the day. The trouble is it can often be random and disorganised.
Structure your days into time blocks, where you give yourself distinct time periods that are dedicated to certain activities. You need to be strict with these time blocks, but you will find that you will be more capable of getting a variety of things done properly than had you meandered through the day.
If you’re spending 75% of your time on your main dish, and 25% on your side-projects, make sure you mark time out for these specific activities so that your day reflects this.
I find it helps to keep track of the amount of time spent on each activity and to know in my mind roughly how much time I want to be spending on each.