what I do not want to focus on

Published on May 1, 2020

There are so many different things I could do with my time.

Yesterday, I was thinking about what activities were going to occupy my time after work. I thought to myself that I could use my time to continue on the online course I have been taking. Then, I thought about listening to a podcast. Reading a book also came to mind.

I cannot do all three of these things, but I can do one of them. Which should I choose?

One of the things I have been thinking a lot about lately is not what to focus on, but what not to focus on. Thinking about my time through this lens has encouraged me to pivot my attention toward the things that really matter, and ignore everything else.

In order to think about what I do not want to focus on, I have been thinking a lot about what I am great at, and what I want to become better at.

I want to become a better writer. I want to learn more about product management. Because these two things are so important to me, I know that I need to focus on them.

At the same time, I also know that anything else that would distract me from pursuing these fields is not a productive use of my time. It’s difficult for me to admit that I will not be able to do everything, but that’s just a fact of life.

I know that I am good at writing. I know that I want to learn more about product management. So, my time needs to be focused on these two areas -- the ones that really matter to me.

This afternoon, I resolve to read a book instead of listen to the podcast I had set aside. The reason is because I know that I don’t want to focus on the subject matter of the podcast. I want to focus on reading or long-form content.

Thinking about what you don’t want to focus on is just as important as thinking about what should occupy your time. Thinking about how you should spend your time in the context of what skills you want to get better at is really valuable.

I know that I am not going to become an expert data scientist. So, why should I be taking a course on data science when there are other things I want to do instead? I don’t want to focus on data science, or business podcasts, or anything like that. I want to focus on writing, reading, and product.

This is an ongoing journey, and involves making a lot of trade-offs. But, in the long run, I think I will benefit from asking myself “what do I not want to focus on?” more often.

Learning data science, for instance, is a massive commitment. And that commitment will only serve as a distraction to me from other things that matter more. There are other things that I actually want to focus on in more depth -- things I want to double down on -- that deserve my attention instead.

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