How to get to work, now. And some inspiration from Mr. Murakami.

January 5, 2009 by Jared Goralnick

Sit back and start the year right (oh, and a cup of what looks like coffee) It’s January 5th, the first day everyone’s back to work.  This is a short post to help get through the overwhelming expectations of a new year.

Nothing happens over night, but things will happen today, and tomorrow, and the day after that.  It’s time for less macro-thought and more micro-focus, so that we can live up to those high hopes.

I’ve done so much brainstorming and dreaming over the last few weeks that I don’t even know where to begin.  I’m not ready to list my resolutions, but it doesn’t matter.

What matters is that I know exactly what I’m going to do today and what one bigger project I want to tackle this week.  I need laser focus for today, and I need to save the rest of the big picture for the end of this week.  So the 2-3 things I’m going to do, I’d also suggest for you:

  1. Write down what you want to do today—make the list incredibly short
  2. Focus on that and don’t check your email, Twitter, Facebook or voicemail, or make a phone call during the first few hours of the day
  3. Tonight, write the list for tomorrow…and repeat

I sound like a broken record stressing these points, but if you do this you’ll find success in 2009.  You don’t need to seek the meaning of life, but if you know the meaning of today you’ll be off to a damn good start.

I’ll leave you with this quote from one of my favorite novelists, Haruki Murakami, in his recently published memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running:

Without [focus] you can’t accomplish anything of value, while, if you can focus effectively, you’ll be able to compensate for an erratic talent or even a shortage of it.  I generally concentrate on work for three or four hours every morning.  I sit at my desk and focus totally on what I’m writing.  I don’t see anything else, I don’t think about anything else….

You’ll naturally learn both concentration and focus when you sit down every day at your desk and train yourself to focus on one point….And gradually you’ll expand the limits of what you’re able to do.  Almost imperceptibly you’ll make the bar rise.  This involves the same process as jogging every day to strengthen your muscles and develop a runner’s physique.  Add a stimulus and keep it up.  And repeat.  Patience is a must in this process, but I guarantee the results will come.

Start a routine today that involves focus, and you’ll build the endurance necessary to achieve those bigger goals one day at a time.  Welcome to a new year.

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8 Responses to “How to get to work, now. And some inspiration from Mr. Murakami.”

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  1. Bob

    Great Post.

  2. Tom –

    Great post! You hit on the same points that I did when I posted about overcoming procrastination yesterday.

  3. Daria Steigman

    Hi Jared,

    Great advice to start off the first work week of 2009. I’d also suggest that people who don’t think they’re being pulled off course check their Sent Box once a week to see what e-mails went out during their alloted quiet time, and check their TweetStats periodically too see how often they’re tweeting when they meant to be focused on the task at hand. It can be a rude–but useful–awakening.

    I already have my task list for tomorrow.

    Happy New Year,

  4. Jared Goralnick

    Thanks Bob & Tom!

    Daria, that’s some good advice about ways to keep oneself accountable after the fact. Personally I’m actually okay with *sending* email when you’re supposed to be focused, since that may be part of the work. It’s really keeping myself away from looking at new stuff that I try to control. But that totally makes sense, and it’s a good approach!

    Also, two neat tools for keeping track of how good you are at sticking to your goals are (Win only) and (Win & Mac). They’ll both make it abundantly clear whether you stayed focused :-).


  5. communicatrix

    Way to come out of the gates, kiddo. (I’d have commented earlier, but I was busy making stuff.)

  6. Sonia Simone

    There aren’t enough Murakami quotes in the blogosphere!

    Great post, thanks much.

  7. Darpan

    Great Post Jared,
    Keep it up.

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