Time is limited: "Focus" is your most important strategy

Oct 12 / 2014 Comments
Posted by

24 hours. That's how much time you have each day. On average, 8 hours of that goes to sleep, leaving only 16 real hours for you to live everyday. 4 hours out of that are lost on daily repetitive tasks such as eating, commuting, showering etc... so only 12 hours are really left for you to make a living and have fun.

Opportunities & Multitasking: just an illusion

If you are good at what you do, whether you are a craftsman, technician, engineer, entrepreneur or an executive, opportunities will keep popping up: Job offers, new ideas, better plans.

The biggest mistake you can do is to be willing to grab on many opportunities at the same time, essentially taking each good opportunity that passes your way.

People usually fall for that trap in the beginning of their careers or after they graduate out of a college or university, because they were not used to those opportunities and offers being available to them. They try to catch and cling onto each one of them and are afraid to let it go or say no.

Example of limits

For example, a recent design graduate who doesn't have a lot of work experience who starts offering her services and receives a lot of calls and requests and accepts them all, thinking that this is what success should be in her career. As she starts to execute the work she was just contracted for she starts being late for some of them because as we discussed in the beginning of this article, the time she has every day is limited; IT IS A LIMITED RESOURCE.

Let's say each project needs 20 real hours of work to get done and she just accepted 5 projects that she promised the clients would be done within a week; by doing a simple calculation we see that it wouldn't be mathematically possible to deliver all the opportunities she has overtaken on time. So some of the projects will be late and the clients will be mad and speak badly of her.

It is a mistake to undertake responsibilities without calculating if we have enough time available to undertake it.

Focus on one thing

Thus it is very important to pick one big goal or one big undertaking and focus on it rather than distribute our attention and limited time between tens of opportunities and undertakings. There simply isn't enough time or energy to make them all work for you.

Here is one quote from Epictetus that I adore that describes this phenomena:

If you wish to win at the Olympic Games, to prepare yourself properly you would have to follow a strict regimen that stretches you to the limits of your endurance. You would have to submit to demanding rules, follow a suitable diet, vigorously exercise at a regular time in both heat and cold, and give up drinking. You would have to follow the directions of your trainer as if he or she were your doctor. Then, once you are actually in competition, there's a good chance you'd be hurled into a ditch. You might injure your arm, sprain your ankle, get your face slammed in the mud; and after going through all this, you might still be defeated.

After you have contemplated all these possibilities—mindful of all the things that might happen and their consequences— and if your resolve is still strong, then exercise your judgement. If the overall picture still seems beneficial, then do enter the Games—wholeheartedly.

By considering the big picture, you distinguish yourself from the mere dabbler, the person who plays at things as long as they feel comfortable or interesting. This is not noble. Think things through and fully commit! Otherwise, you will be like a child who sometimes pretends he or she is a wrestler, sometimes a solider, sometimes a musician, sometimes an actor in a tragedy.



Epictetus says that if you don't fully commit to your main endeavour you will risk becoming like the dabbler, someone that keeps trying things out and never gets serious about any of them.

What to do with your 12 hours?

Based on human experience, in order to achieve a minimally acceptable result, it is ideal and most efficient to work on something for 8 hours a day (breaks included). I will call this thing your Primary thing. That's why the current "9 to 5 job idea" is not so bad afterall. It respects those limits. After those 8 hours are gone you still have 4 hours left, but these hours you need them to do the different things you do other than working: doing the groceries, visiting the bank, going to the movies; so they are an essential part of your life and you must use them wisely.

Also, it is hard for people to work each and everyday, that is why we have weekends.

If you absolutely want to have a second undertaking, the only realistic way you can accomplish it is by sacrificing the 4 hours left a couple days a week for the undertaking. I will call this thing your Secondary thing.


Workaholics and everyone else, stop fooling yourself. You cannot keep doing many things at the same time and have them done great, on time, and successfully. Ideally you can only focus on one thing only as your Primary thing and if necessary, you can sacrifice parts of your life for a Secondary thing.

So remember what Epictetus said...and make your right choices and fully commit!

What do you think about this post? Add your comment below: