Book Review : Focus Manifesto

I was struggling with focus in the past week, and I needed a refresher of the basics. So I was looking for reading a new book that I haven’t read before, and luckily there was a free one – the Focus Manifesto by Leo Babauta of fame.

The whole book boils down to few things for me:

  • Shut down or shut out all distractions, including email, twitter, phones, internet access, noise from outside, etc.
  • Start with one thing that is important today and do only that, which is called the MIT (Most Important Task for today)
  • Follow the Pomodoro technique, at least in concept – focus in a mindful manner in intense periods with short breaks in between

Nice and simple. And very hard to do. But it was surprisingly easy to do today after I read the book last night and today morning and was strongly reminded about the basics. Sometimes, all you need is to step back and revise the basics.

In particular, I am intrigued by the “Disconnect and Connect Working Routine”:

Consider a routine such as the following:

  1. Disconnect for a day (or two). No Internet connection — perhaps no computer at all if using your computer is too much of a temptation to connect. Use an actual paper notepad and pen, writing and brainstorming and making pages of notes or sketches. Make phone calls instead of connecting via email or IM. Meet with people in real life, and get outside. Get a ton of important work done. No mobile devices except for actual phone calls.
  2. Then connect for a day (or two). Take all the notes and work you did during your disconnect, and type them up and email them and post them online and so forth. Answer emails and get other routine tasks done, and then prepare for your next day of disconnect.
  3. Repeat. You can vary the number of days you’re disconnected or connected, finding the balance that works for you.

While some may feel this will limit the work they can do, I think it’ll actually do the opposite: you’ll get more done, or at least more important tasks done, because you won’t be distracted.

You’ll also find it a calming change from the always-connected. It’s a peaceful routine.

What I find interesting is a “mostly offline” mindset as opposed to a “mostly online” mindset I had – I (mostly) used to switch off WiFi for the first two hours of the day. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why I was more productive in Goa where I had severe Internet connectivity issues. Hmmm.

12 thoughts on “Book Review : Focus Manifesto

  1. wow, that’s an interesting idea – disconnect and connect routine….worth trying it out. I have faced situations where I have hit upon some interesting ideas and revelations about a project I’m working on when I’m away from my PC/laptop.

  2. Pingback: - HaMob
    1. @HaMob/Christiano – Fantastic thoughts, I especially loved:

      To create time, you need awareness. You have to be aware of where 24 hours of your day go.

  3. Thanks for sharing it Swaroop..

    I unknowingly follow it sometimes when I decide I will not open mails, twitter for first half of the day.. also, now I realize why sometimes I do walk into office at 6am so that I get switched off from all the distractions !!

    Thanks again summarizing :)

    1. @Ravikant Great! Makes sense regarding the 6am thing, but seriously, 6am at the office! :-O :-)

  4. Nicely written, and concise enough to make me download the book and read it.
    I agree with being disconnected, often being connected is the source for distractions. I would really give it a shot.

  5. On a different note, being connected would be required at times when you are working on some code (at least in my case I would at times search for some solution if I am stuck somewhere), but there should be a way to block all other possible distractions- like twitter, facebook, gmail. And when we try to unblock them they should take 24hours to get unblocked and not immediate.

    1. @Mohamed Sanaulla : There are enough browser extensions which do that and they are useful, but for me, fundamentally, the idea of being disconnected should be ingrained into myself so that being online, specifically to search w.r.t. your coding problem, etc. automatically happens but none of the other behaviors… wishful thinking I guess!

Comments are closed.