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How to Manage Your Focus Instead of Your Time



We hear a lot about time management. But for Jordan Baker, founder of Focuster, a productivity app that helps you manage your focus, what’s far more important than managing your time is managing your focus.

I chatted with Baker about why we should rethink our to-do list, why entrepreneurs should manage their focus, and how Focuster can help.

Cat Johnson: If I wanted to put more focus on focus, what would that look like?

Jordan Baker: I have four key principles of focus management:

1. Write Down your Goals

The first is to write down your goals. These are the things you’re going to look at when you have opportunities come up. You can ask yourself whether they match your longterm goals.

2. Prioritize

The second is to prioritize. If you’re just getting started with managing your focus, you probably have an overwhelming to-do list. In the beginning, the urgent things may move to the top of your priority list. You need to get clear on how they fit into an order. Pull out the top 3-5 items to be your priorities for the day. When you identify what your goals and priorities are upfront, you’re able to conserve your precious willpower and attention because you’re not continually asking yourself what to do next.

3. Create a Game you Can Win

The third principle is to create a game you can win. So many people have a list which is not grounded in reality at all. It’s a long to-do list with no consideration for how long those things take or when you’ll be able to get them done. Focuster lets you see what you want to do in the context of your calendar and how much time you actually have.

My process I developed with Focuster is to start with the first thing on your list, your number one priority, and find a block of time in your calendar to work on that. This forces you to realize that time is a limited resource that you do have to manage but it has to come within a larger picture of managing your focus. This facilitates dialogue with yourself about what your priorities are, where your work and life balance out, and how achieving your goals gives you more awareness.

4. Mindfulness

The fourth principle is around mindfulness: how can I be more fully in this moment, with what I’m doing right now. A big part of this is doing meditation or some kind of mindfulness practice. I recommend people try one of the free meditation apps, like Headspace or 10% Happier. They train your mind to be able to stay more focused for longer.

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Tell me more about Focuster

I created Focuster because I want to help entrepreneurs. I believe entrepreneurs are the individuals that have the biggest potential to make the world a better place. I know government and NGOs have all had massive impact, but the leaders I see now in the world are coming from an entrepreneurial model.

My idea with Focuster is to help entrepreneurs reduce their overwhelm and distraction so we can accelerate that change we all want to see in the world.

It does that by automating the process of helping your prioritize and create a game you can win. You tell it what your priorities are, and what your goals are, and it connects to your Google calendar and builds an actionable schedule for you in your calendar. Throughout your day, it will remind you of the next thing you need to work on.

The killer feature is that if you don’t finish things, they move forward in the calendar automatically and reflow everything around that in real-time. It responds to changes in your schedule, it responds to re-prioritization in your schedule. It’s like an executive assistant in the cloud in a lot of ways.

Anything you’d like to add?

This is a whole new category of tools. My goal is that, 10 years from now, the idea of having an overwhelming to-do list and wondering what to do next will be obsolete.

We’ll tell our digital assistants what our bigger goals are in life, and they’re going to support us in breaking that down into intelligent, small pieces that we can reason with. Then they’ll present to us the information we need, only in the moment we need to see it, so we conserve our creativity and cognition for the things that really matter.

Interested in trying Focuster? Save 50% at focuster.com for a limited time.

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Photo: Alexis Brown (CC-0). This post originally appeared in the Santa Cruz Record

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