M.A. Psychology, Oxford. McKinsey Alum. Founder & Editor at TAoL.
How do you try and balance all the things you want to (and must) do without letting them all overwhelm you?
Most people equate feeling overwhelmed with being overloaded. You have to much too do, there are never enough hours in the day, yeah, yada, yada.
But I have a different take on it. To me, overwhelm is a symptom of poorly defined priorities. If you have a gazillion things to do, but you clearly understand which one is most important, then you really only have one thing to do right now, and it’s not overwhelming.
Personally, I prioritise everything. I know which goals are the highest priority, which tasks are the highest priority, and even which people are the highest priority. I then attempt to focus on only the highest priority things and ignore everything else.
For me, that’s the hard part. It’s tempting to focus on lower priority things, just because they are easier and less dangerous. For instance, answering this question is NOT my highest priority today, but I’m feeling sleepy and not ready to do anything hard. So, I’m procrastinating by answering you. Congratulations, you’re an enabler, hahaha. 😉
What are your favourite ways to eliminate daily distractions and focus on doing what matters?
I think it’s useful to think about your sources of distractions. What interrupts you throughout the day? Where do the distractions come from?
For most people, common answers are cell phones, social media, coworkers, family and friends. It’s the same for me.
So the next question is, “What can you do to eliminate any possibility of being interrupted?” Well, you can turn off your cell phone, disconnect from the Internet, and go somewhere to work where there are no other people.
And that’s what I do when I need to focus. It’s very effective.
What do you love most about the work that you’re doing and life that you’re living right now?
There are lots of different ways to answer this question. What am I most excited about? What brings me the most joy? Where do I find the most fulfilment? And I’ll give a quick answer to those first:
The more time I spend 1) helping people by 2) doing what I do best, 3) surrounded by people I love, the better I generally feel. To me, those are the three components of a good life.
But here’s a more important answer, in my opinion:
You shouldn’t depend on your work for happiness. Nothing is enjoyable all the time, nothing is exciting all the time, nothing is fulfilling all the time. If you use those emotions as a barometer for your success, you’ll lose focus and get distracted. It’s happened to me many times.
A better approach is to draw happiness from within. Give your work permission to have its ups and downs, love yourself regardless of your circumstances, and cheerfully do whatever is required of you, even when it’s boring, exhausting, or “beneath you.” It’s a difficult perspective to maintain, but if you can do it, you’ll be a healthier, stronger human.
What biggest changes have you noticed in yourself over the last 10 years?
Ha, the changes are enormous. 10 years ago, I was living on welfare, worried about being thrown into a nursing home, and writing some of my first blog posts in obscurity. Today, I’m a multimillionaire who has written or edited articles read by more than 200 million people, and I’m connected with some of the most amazing people alive.
In short: I’m a completely different person, at least on the outside. Internally, there are changes too, but not as many. I’m still roughly the same person, I think.
The biggest change is my source of motivation. For much of the last decade, I was motivated by simple survival. If I failed, I could have quite literally died. The fear of that gave me an endless source of energy.
Today though, I’m not afraid of much, and so I’ve been forced to discover new sources of motivation. Mostly, it’s contribution. I want to give as much as I can to the world before I die (and that’s hopefully a long way off!).
If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it what would it say and why?
I’m an English major, dear man. Do you have any idea how torturous it is to limit us to a few words or a paragraph? Hahaha. But I’ll try:
Turn off your cell phone.
These days, people spend the majority of their lives lost in their phones, and we’ve lost the ability to appreciate silence, stillness, and boredom. We treat them almost like enemies, and I think it’s costing us more than we could ever imagine.