A note from Rach Smith's digital garden

Use a narrowed focus to complete big projects

Added: August 23, 2022

Tags: development work productivity

I was listening to this Huberman Lab podcast where the guest Dr. Emily Balcetis was talking about the mental strategies elite runners use to finish their races. Her initial assumption was that they’d be hyper aware of everything going on around them in the race: the other competitors, how far they’d travelled, how far they have to go. It turned out they were doing the opposite. They were actually narrowing their focus to the next few steps. By reducing the scope of what they were focused on they were able to perform better across the race, whether that be a short distance or a long distance.

As I was listening, I realised that this is the same strategy that I use to stay motivated at work.

At CodePen we are working on a big upgrade to the product. Well, it is less of an upgrade than a tear-down-and-rebuild. It is an enormous amount of work, like a years-long undertaking. When I think about how long I’ve been working on it, and how much work there is to go, it is completely demoralizing. So I don’t think about that. I narrow my focus to today. What can I get done today? How can I be most effective today?

The more I put my “blinders” on, put my head down and focus on what is immediately in front of me, the more I achieve over a longer time period. When I get in to this zone, I am like a lazer beam blasting through the work. The thing about lazer beams is that you want to make sure they are pointed in the right direction! I help with choosing a direction, but ultimately that is the decision of the founders.

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