How to Focus Your Priorities and Narrow Down Your Interests - College Info Geek

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One of the biggest sources of stress in my life is that

I have too many interests, and I often find it difficult

to find just one pursuit

to put all of my focus and energy on.

And I get a lot of questions from students

and viewers who have the exact same problem.

So if you feel like you have this problem as well,

you're not alone.

In fact, this is a really common problem

and its often been referred to as the Paradox of Choice.

One person who has done a lot of research on this problem is

the Columbia School of Business professor, Sheena Iyengar.

And she summed this problem up really well when she said:

"There are times when the presence

"of more choices can make us choose things

"that are not good for us. For me, the clearest example

"is that the more retirement fund options a person has,

"the less likely they are to save for their old age."

So, here is the big important question.

How do you narrow down this ridiculous amount

of choices you have to a few things

that you can really focus your time,

attention, and energy on?

Well, there's a story about the billionaire investor,

Warren Buffet, that might actually help.

The story goes that Buffet was talking with the pilot

of his private jet, and the pilot asked him

about how he could narrow down his career goals

and really focus.

So, Warren asked him to do an exercise.

He said, "First, write down your top 25 career goals.

"Then once you have that list,

"circle the five most important goals on the list

"and come back to me."

So the guy went and did it.

He wrote down those 25 goals.

He circled five and he came back,

and essentially at this point he had two lists.

List A, which were those five most important goals.

And List B which were the 20 other goals that

weren't as important.

So at this point the pilot says,

"Okay, I think I got it now.

"The five that you had me circle are

"the most important things I should be focusing on,

"whereas the 20 I didn't circle are less important

"so I can practice those intermittently

"when I have some spare time,

"but I shouldn't focus on them as much."

And Buffet's response was,

"No. The list of twenty items you didn't circle

"is now your Avoid at all Costs list.

"These are goals and interests you have

"that have enough pull on your interests

"that they will distract you from

"the five most important goals.

"If you want to be superstar at something,

"you can't afford to be diversifying your attention

"across all these interests.

"You have to focus."

Now, it is likely that this story is actually fake.

I've read in several places on-line

that Buffet himself has said that he didn't

have this conversation with his pilot.

However, even if a famous person

didn't give these instructions,

and have this guy do this exercise,

I think the exercise is actually still useful to do.

But I want to do you one better.

You can definitely go through that exercise,

but I want to share something that I discovered last week

that I have adopted in my own life.

There's a guy I've been following for

a number of years on-line named Derek Sivers,

and he's an author, a public speaker,

and the founder of a company called CD Baby.

And he's had a lot of success in his life,

so I've been really inspired by his writings

and especially this book note section on his website

that he has where he summarizes books.

And last week, I saw that he put something on his website

called a now page.

It's basically a page where he writes What I'm doing now.

He lists out a few of his main priorities

like being a full-time dad, being a programmer,

answering emails, and writing blog posts.

And then he says, "These are my priorities right now.

"And because of that, I'm not going to

"accept new opportunities.

"I don't want to speak publicly,

"and I'm gonna focus my time on these things I've listed."

So this page serves as a couple of different functions.

Number one. It's a public declaration

of his main priorities, which can help him justify saying no

to other opportunities and explain that

to other people who bring those opportunities to him.

But it's also a private reminder

for when he's feeling unfocused

of what he should be focusing his mind on.

Now, I think this now page is a fantastic idea,

so just like the impossibilist concept

that my friend, Joel, came up with,

I have appropriated it for my own uses.

And now, you can go to

to see what I'm doing with my life.

On that page, you'll see a similar layout to Derek's page.

I've got What I'm Doing Now,

with a few different priorities listed out.

But there is a key difference.

Since I'm a bit earlier on in my career than Derek is,

I've decided to be a little less staunch

about saying no to new opportunities on that page

than he has been.

On mine, I say that I'm still open to new opportunities,

I really value spontaneity and novelty,

but 90% of my time is still going to go

towards those main priorities.

So if you're a student, or you're early on in your career,

and you want to use this page for your own purposes,

my suggestion is to be a little bit more open

to other opportunities and take a stand in that camp,

but still be focusing the majority of your attention

on the priorities you've all ready set out on the page.

So that is all I've got for you in this video.

If you'd like to see my page,

I've got a link down in the description,

and also on the card right now.

And if you want to make your own page,

I've got a tutorial on how to build your own website

on my site that I'll link to in the description.

You can also use something simpler,

like or even Tumblr

if you want a free and simple option.

Or, if you don't want to make it public,

you could even just put it in a Word document

or an Evernote document just to be a private reminder

to keep your own mind focused on your priorities.

That's all I've got for today,

so if you enjoyed this video give it a like

so other people can find this channel.

And if you have additional tips that have helped you

to focus your priorities, share 'em down

in the comments.

And other than that,

I will see you, as always, next week.

(lively music)

Hey guys, thanks so much for watching this video.

If you want to get new tips on how

to be a more effective student every single week,

you can click that big red Subscribe button right there.

I also wrote a free book on how to earn better grades,

so if you want to get a copy you can click

the picture of the book.

And if you want to find a summary

and links to both my now page

and Derek's original now page, and some addtional now pages

that other people have been making,

you can click the orange logo right there

to go to the blog posts.

Last week, we did a fun bonus video

about my top 10 favourite fiction books,

so check it out if you haven't seen it.

And if you want to connect with me,

I'm on Twitter @TomFrankly.

Also on instagram: @TomFrankly.

And you can leave a comment below as well.