Creating value

Creating value is unrelated to busyness. When you find yourself — as I sometimes do — working long hours, day after day, reacting and e-mailing and hatching schemes, it’s useful to remember that you’re working more than some of the world’s most respected and impactful thinkers.

~ Cal Newport from,

I often write about focus because it’s something I’m trying to improve. When I’ve lost focus, it’s a challenge to call myself back to the important things. But a better plan for improvement would be to not lose focus in the first place, or at least to not lose focus as often.

Recently I’ve been keeping in mind Viktor Frankl’s thought about there being a space between stimulus and response. I find that when I’m able to remember that space, I’m able to consciously decide when, and if, I should shift my focus.

For example, I sat down to write and a myriad of other thoughts arose. Instead of trying to ignore them or make them go away—don’t think of a pink elephant—I zoom in on each idea: I consider the sense of urgency; no, actually there’s nothing urgent about the action this thought is suggesting. I consider the sense of entitlement; no, actually there’s no reason that I should be congratulated or rewarded for this thought or what it’s suggesting I attempt to do. I consider the benefit to myself or others; no, actually this thought isn’t vastly better than the other ideas and projects I’m already working. Soon enough the thought moves along like a petulant child. I think, “let’s see, where was I? I had sat down to write.”

Externally, that whole process—even if I repeat it for multiple thoughts—looks very unlike busyness. It looks much like I’m sitting still. It looks like I’m gazing out the window. It even looks a bit like I’m focused on writing. In fact, I am still focused on writing.

It’s my choice: Is this the moment when I want to change where I’ve placed my focus? If not, then terrific, I’m still focused where I had chosen.