Narrow Your Focus for Better Results

Posted September 2, 2012 by Marcy Farrey in Features

As someone who works in a creative field, I tend to have many ideas going at once. I have an idea for an article, a novel, a documentary, a short video — the list goes on. You might have several ideas you want to implement in your work projects and for personal side projects at home. While it’s great to have so many ideas, it can be hard to juggle all of them at once. Which ideas do you start with, and which ones do you save for later? Or, when you’re facing so many projects, do you end up overwhelmed, putting all of them on hold?

We’re all so used to multitasking that we sometimes forget the benefits of focus. Turning our attention to one project at a time can make a huge difference on our overall productivity. Jake, a contributor to, used Einstein as the ultimate example of how “Focus Can Change the World.” Between 1912 and 1915, Einstein narrowed his focus to relativity, and made one of the greatest scientific accomplishments of the 20th century. His willingness to devote his life to one project for three years brought him success:

Einstein’s push explains a lot about accomplishment. We are most productive when we focus on a very small number of projects on which we can devote a large amount of attention. Achievement worth achieving require hard work. There is no shortcut or cheating here. Be it starting up a new club or starting a new business, eventually, effort, sustained over a long amount of time, is required.”

If you’re used to multitasking, this can be hard. We’ve been led to believe that if we have our hands in multiple projects, the chance for success in one of them is higher. As Jake says, we often plant many seeds in many areas, hoping one will grow. But there is a downside to that:

These numerous seeds, however, have a tendency to transform into weeds. While some of them clearly grow into pursuits worth continuing . . . others die off quickly.”

We can’t expect to chop up our time and complete a major project successfully: We’re giving too much of our time to the weeds. When our mind is tuned in to just one idea, we can fully develop it. 

Of course, we all have jobs that require our attention be pulled elsewhere at various times of the day. But when it comes time to work on something you care about, choose just one idea and stay with it. For example, I can’t write a novel and a short story collection at the same time. I have to pick one or the other to focus on for a longer period of time. This doesn’t mean I abandon my other ideas — I return to them later, one at a time. If you’re like me and always have ideas coming through your head, carry around a small notebook and make notes for them as they come — that way, you can always return to it later and not lose that initial spark.

Before you start any new project, assess where your priorities are. What are you willing to focus on right now? Give your time to the projects you care about most, because they are the most deserving of your full attention.

Read the rest of Jake’s article at

About the Author

Marcy Farrey

Marcy Farrey is a videographer, writer, and editor. In her previous life, she worked as a broadcast news reporter and producer in Lincoln, Nebraska and as a writer and producer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She has a Master of Arts in Writing and Publishing from DePaul University and a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University. Learn more about Marcy on her website


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