focus is picking

I have a stack of books to read. I have deadlines for some of them. I have personal learning needs for others of them.

I read several books at a time. I have them in every space I occupy. I carry them in my briefcase. I always have.

My problem is that by reading many, I seldom finish any. I sample and browse and skim and and lose track.

I’m realizing this week that if I want to meet my deadlines, I have to focus. I have to pick one book and finish it. And then pick another book. I’m trying to limit how many I carry with me.

I’m considering changing how I “always work” for the sake of getting something done.

So I’ll be reading The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Tim Keller.

Then I’ll be reading Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and the Churches that Reach Them by Ed Stetzer (not published yet. That’s why I have it).

Then I’ll be reading … other books.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

And I’m curious, does focus always mean one thing at a time?


Mark Forster describes the AutoFocus system which lists everything and has you pick one thing at a time. Feels friendlier to me, and less complicated, than David Allen’s Getting Things Done.


5 responses to “focus is picking

  1. I just ran across Mark Forster’s blog before I saw your article. I think Forster would say that you could read more than one book at a time as long as you have a plan to keep coming back to each of them. Little and often.

    Forster quotes Al Secunda saying “a minimum of 15 seconds work a day on any project will bring it to fruition.” I could believe that. When I don’t complete a project, it’s not because I give it some time but not enough, it’s because I quit giving it any time. If you commit to reading each book for at least 15 seconds a day, each book will get a lot more time than that most days and you’ll get through them all.

  2. Focusing on something will tune out everything else that you’re not focusing on, but what it’ll give you is clarity and true understanding. To me, focused reading means book + coffee + a place to hide away from other demands. Sometimes it’s a time of day ( early in the morning or late at night ), sometimes it’s a cafe tucked away in a street corner somewhere.

    I’ve always understood focus in the focus always demand sacrificing attention on some other things.

  3. I read several books at a time as well. Rarely finish a book for that reason, although I finished one tonight!

    A friend told me, “If I can’t finish a book, I figure I already got what I needed from it.” That’s just a different kind of focus.

  4. I am trying this rule. I can read multiple books but one 1 per category I cover in my life. So I can have:

    1 book to further my career
    1 health book,
    1 personal finance book,
    1 book for my soul (fiction, history or a hobby such as photography)
    1 spiritual book

    This way I only have 1 book to focus on when I’m working on that area of my life but I’m not limiting my growth.

    Oh, and of course the Bible, so I guess that makes 6 books.

  5. hmmm. Nice way to be thoughtful. What will be interesting is to see how much
    the categories blur.