Dear Puttylike reader, this is a classic Puttylike post. Meaning, it’s from the early days–from before I really found my voice or knew what I was doing. I’ve chosen to keep this post online for the benefit of Puttylike readers who have worked their way backward through the archives. And also to highlight the fact that everybody starts somewhere! xo, Emilie
This is part 3 of The Multi-Focus Maverick Series. This series is all about how to split up your time effectively so that you can focus on many things and still make progress on your goals.
A common objection to having many projects on the go, is that time is limited. This is a hard one to argue with because… well, it’s true. There really is only so much time in a day.
So yes, unfortunately the number of things you can focus on at once is limited. However, it’s not nearly as limited as the multi-focus haters claim that it is!
There’s a middle ground
The assumption is that if you’re not fixated on one core project, it means you’re chasing a million other things.
It’s not an either/or equation. It’s a spectrum. And there’s a huge range between focusing on one thing and focusing on everything.
Having a few core projects on the go
With a bit of structure and planning, multipotentialites can absolutely make progress on more than one goal at a time. It just involves some deliberate planning.
Two things need to be in place:
- You need to define your current core projects.
- You need to break each project down into small, actionable steps.
But even focusing on everything is okay sometimes
Lets just get this out of the way. Focusing on “everything” is not a good way to make progress on your goals.
However, focusing on “everything” is a good way to research which projects you’d like to focus on more seriously in the future.
That’s what scanning mode is for. If you recall, focus mode and scanning mode are distinct. At any given time, you’re either in one or the other. In this post we’re talking about the activities that take place while in focus mode only.
How many plates do you like to spin?
Some multipotentialites enjoy having a few priority projects on the go, while others are more sequential in nature and may only have one or two main focuses at a given time. There’s no official rule here (or to any of this stuff), but in my experience, keeping your core projects down below five is a good idea. Once you move beyond five, you may start to get overwhelmed.
I’m not saying to limit yourself to five interests. I’m saying, limit your core projects – the priorities – to five. You can keep all of your other interests in your life and work on them in scanner mode. You can also put them on the back burner for a later date when a core focus spot has opened up.
Assign core projects to specific weeks or months
I like to have no more than two or three core projects on the go at once. For the month of June, my biggest priority was writing my book. That’s almost done now and once it is, I’ll be filling that slot with my main July project: a spec script.
That’s how I like to work- with two or three core priorities in my life and a back burner list of projects that I assign to future months and occasionally dabble in during my scanning time.
I know multipods who like to do this with weeks instead of months. Either way, it’s a cool method because you don’t need to worry about things not getting done. Every project will get its turn.
But as a general rule, keep your core projects down below five and focus on your lower-priority projects while in scanner mode and/or put them on your back burner list for the future.
Criteria for choosing your core projects
Lets say you’ve been dabbling in many things during your scanning time and you’re ready to shift some of those interests over to focus mode so that you can make tangible progress. How do you decide which projects to prioritize?
I was going to write up a long list of criteria, but the truth is, I only consider two factors. Here are my criteria plus some additional ideas that were sent to me by some awesome puttypeep on Twitter.
How much do you care about this project? How in line is it with your values and your vision for your life? How much do you yearn to do it?
Remember that a lot of resistance is often a sign that a project is really important to your core. Don’t let fear dictate your decision. Seriously consider those big goals that make your heart flutter with both excitement and fear.
As Kathryn puts it,
Derek Sivers writes about how you should only take on projects that make you say “HELL YEAH!” and pass on everything else. I agree. Ideally, you want to get to a place where all of your main focuses are “HELL YEAH!” projects.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen right away. The reality is that sometimes one of your core focuses needs to be something you’re slightly less enthusiastic about because it’s slightly more profitable in the short run.
Lach, makes a good point here:
I like to view the core projects that aren’t mad fun as stepping stones- temporary activities to sustain you till you’re able to fill your days with only the projects that light you up, which is what you are working towards.
However, you should always try to have some HELL YEAH! projects in your life. Otherwise you’ll eventually become bitter and unhappy. I mean, if you’re not working on something meaningful, or working towards working on something meaningful, then you’re just wasting your time here.
Life is short. Spend your time on things that matter.
The first thing I want to stress is that profitability and meaning aren’t necessarily opposites.
I actually believe that the profit is ultimately where the passion. The reason being that you end up working 1000% harder on projects you care about. And hard work and determination are what make the difference between success and failure.
I work a lot of hours, probably more than most people with full time jobs. It just doesn’t feel like work because there’s nothing I’d rather be doing. Work is a pleasure.
Anyway, that issue aside, some projects will naturally result in more immediate income and may be less fulfilling. It all depends on your situation. Weigh the pros and cons and try to mix it up a little- work some passion-based projects into your life, along with the more profitable ones.
Think both in terms of the long term and short term benefits
Meg reminded me that it’s important to consider both the short term and long term benefits of a project:
How urgent is your situation? Can you afford to also work on a few long term projects that won’t produce income for a little while? (Yes you can. Start a side hustle and start small- but start!)
Here are some more great Tweets that add to what’s already been said:
What criteria do you use to determine your core projects?