As we begin this series on personal productivity, the logical place to start is with a discussion of focus. You don’t want to get more things done. You want to get the right things done.
Success does not happen accidentally. According to Jordan Peterson:

A huge part of the reason that people fail is that they don’t ever set up the criteria for success. And so, since success is a very narrow line, and very unlikely, the probability that you’re going to stumble on it randomly is zero. And so there is a proposition here and the proposition is: If you actually want something, you can have it.  Now the question then would be, ‘Well, what do you mean by actually want?’ And the answer is that you reorient your life in every possible way to make the probability that that will occur as certain as possible.[1]

In other words, to be successful, you must focus on what is important. When you do, you can prioritize and set aside some things that waste your time so you can do more of that which is meaningful to you.
As I researched this topic, I found many authors say some variation of this statement:

Do that thing which, if completed, will bring the greatest results in your life.

That thing could be personal (e.g., dating your spouse like you did when you first met) or professional (e.g., focusing on major accounts instead of smaller ones). It might mean doing more or doing less. It might mean doing something else entirely. I cannot prescribe what that thing is for you. All I know is that if you are going to achieve it, you must focus on that thing.
Once you have selected your thing, it functions like a north star to guide your actions. Focus on it and eschew lesser things. In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill called this focus on one’s thing a “definite major purpose.”

He wrote, “Riches do not respond to wishes. They respond only to definite plans, backed by definite desires, through constant persistence.”[2] He understood that if you want to achieve your goal, a) you have to know what that goal is and b) you have to pursue it single-mindedly. You need a laser-like focus.
Lasers are nothing more than harmless beams of light. Yet, because they have been focused to a single high frequency, they can cut through steel.[3] That metaphor is a good starting point for personal productivity. Unless you focus like a laser, your potency will be diffused.
In Procrastinate on Purpose. Rory Vaden calls this “Priority Dilution.” He explained that:

To someone struggling with priority dilution, it can sometimes feel like the harder they work, the more they fall behind. For every e-mail they send out, they get two in return, and each task they complete seems to hold behind it two more additionally that need to be done….They are spread thin. Overwhelmed. Under-rested. And they feel like they are falling further and further behind. [4]

If that last paragraph resonates with you, ask yourself if you have lost your focus. 

What About You?

Napoleon Hill’s definite major purpose was “organizing the principles of achievement into a philosophy of success.”[5] Christ came to save humanity from their sins. Mother Teresa ministered to the poorest of the poor. Churchill rose to Defeat Hitler. What is your definite major purpose?


[1] Peterson, J. [Motivation2Study]. (2018, July 8). Jordan Peterson’s ultimate advice for students and college grads – Stop wasting time [Video File]. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsNzAuYDgy0
[2] Hill, N. (2012) Think and grow rich. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications. (p. 157)
[3] How does laser cutting work (n.d.) EASB. Retrieved from https://www.esabna.com/us/en/education/blog/how-does-laser-cutting-work.cfm
[4] Vaden, R. (2015). Procrastinate on purpose: 5 permissions to multiply your time. New York: Perigee Books. (p. 6).
[5] Hill, N. (2012) Think and grow rich. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications. (p. 92).