Originally published by Robert Beisert at fortcollinsprogram.robert-beisert.com

Focus Through Default

I’ve got a touch of ADHD.

I’ve never been diagnosed by a pill prescriber, of course. However, I’m a guy who bounces back and forth between a set of hobbies, browser tabs and bookmarks leaving a rabbit trail of breadcrumbs back through a history of my whims. Half the things I’ve started, I’ve never finished. The remaining half is a majority of work which started with a hint of dedication, then sort of trailed off as I rushed to get to something else.

While I am continuing to develop my willpower, I find it useful to achieve focus through default.

Clutter

I’ve got a lot of stuff. Not a bunch of old televisions, or seven sparkling cars, or what have you, but trinkets and bits of stuff that are important for one task or another. I’ve got screws for devices long gone, business cards from businesses I no longer am in a position to visit, and things like that. On the other hand, I’ve got art supplies from a host of failed artistic endeavours, dozens of half-filled notebooks, and clothes or toys I’ve carried with me for decades.

Recently, I’ve started making a task of eliminating some of this clutter. The little things, so easily replaced, I throw or give away. The larger things – clothes, toys, shoes, sporting equipment, tech – I donate, sell, or otherwise eliminate from my life. I find that the fewer miscellaneous things I see, the fewer random ideas and distractions tend to pop into my head, and the easier it is to focus on what I really want to accomplish. Then, the big things – tools for a hobby or task I’d like to perform – stand out very clearly in my sight and in my mind.

Focus through default.

Bookmarks

I’ve been to millions of web pages in my time. I only know that with any certainty because I bookmark at most 1 in 100 pages, and I’ve amassed tens of thousands of bookmarks in my life.

Old bookmarks that I’ll never visit (or those that no longer complete) are unnecessary clutter when I’m looking for something specific. Bookmarks to sites I can easily find again, or bookmarks to specific pages that are linked on the (already bookmarked) main page are unnecessary as well – they’ll pop up in my search, and I’ll get distracted for a moment. By eliminating these and sorting the rest into a reasonable hierarchy, I can ensure that I remain focused on whatever it was I came to the Internet for.

Focus through default.

Hobbies or Topics

This is the hardest for me. I like to try my hand at a lot of things, but I don’t like putting in the effort required to become genuinely good. If I can choose between practicing guitar for 30 minutes or playing a video game, I’ll almost always pick wrong. The same goes for writer’s block – the more ideas I have for new content, the less likely any of it will ever be written.

Here’s where I cheat a bit. I keep two lists on my computer for things I’d like to do (hobbies) and things I’d like to write (topics). I populate these lists quite frequently, but I seldom if ever re-read them.

On my whiteboard in my room are a few basic things. These are the things on which I will focus, because any other thought I can push out of my head with, “It’s already on my list.” It’s hard for me, but it does make it easier to keep that mental clutter from distracting me from those things I would most like to do.

Focus through default.