The Renaissance Series: How focus can lead to variety

The Renaissance Series features stories and advice on how to lead a productive and organized life when all you want to do is everything.

Focus is the enemy.

Or, at least, that’s what it seems like when you feel compelled to pursue every new interest and idea that pops into your head. But experience and observation has taught me that in some cases, focus can actually be the key to the very variety we crave.

While I consider myself optimistic when it comes to fitting in many pursuits in one week, if you try to pursue, say, six different things seriously at the same time, something will give. Imagine working full-time, ballet training five times a week, launching a literary magazine, doing freelance client work, performing in community theater, and working on an album. All at the same time. Yikes.

Without a time-turner, it’s just not going to happen.

But what if you pared it down to just ballet and the literary magazine on top of the full-time job? The ballet could lead to a community performance, and the literary magazine could open all sorts of doors, from hosting events and workshops to running classes and collaborating with other artists.

By focusing deeply on a few things, you allow yourself to build a platform atop one or two skills. As you build on that solid base, the possibilities to branch out multiply—perhaps in unexpected ways.

Do this: If you’re feeling overwhelmed with everything you’ve taken on, take an inventory of your current projects and activities. Make a list of all the doors each of your skills/interests could open (think broadly!), and ask yourself how long you think you could maintain enthusiasm for that particular interest. Circle the one or two that you feel most excited about, and that allow for the most possibilities, and give them your full attention!

I know this is easier said than done—the pull towards other interests and distractions is inexorable. Make sure you check in with yourself about your interests and goals regularly, and any time you feel tempted to add a new activity to your roster, ask how it can help you with your current plans, and whether it may be best to put on the backburner.