“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”
― Steve Jobs
Your time and attention are limited, so you must be thoughtful about what you focus on.
Focusing is both important and difficult. It’s important because without focus you won’t be able to make meaningful progress towards your goals, and difficult because there are so many other demands on you. (Did you know there’s a new Star Trek show?)
You have something someone else wants: skills, talent, knowledge, experience, or just attention. People may want you to help with their project or to sell you something. You could decide to shift your focus from your own goals to help them with theirs, and in some cases, your goals and theirs may be aligned. It’s best to choose consciously.
How do you decide what to focus on? You need a clear vision of what you’re striving towards, compelling reasons to do so, and principles to guide you. If you don’t have these, you should focus on developing them. Otherwise, how can you tell what you should say “no” to?
Saying “no” isn’t easy. But consider the alternative: reaching the end of your life and regretting not having accomplished the things you set out to do. The time you spend furthering somebody else’s dreams is time you take from your own. Focus consciously on the things that are important to you.