We often talk about the importance of focused work. We rarely talk about the relationship between focus and blur. That makes me feel uneasy, so let’s discuss it.


In order to focus on a handful of specific things, you need to be able to blur out countless other things. The unfortunate truth is that although desires are infinite, focus is finite, and therefore the choice of what to focus on and what to blur is a zero-sum game.

If we list out the things we want to focus on, it often sounds virtuous, or at least industrious. But if we list out the things we must be willing to set aside in order to obtain perfect focus, it gets a bit messy.

It’s easy enough to strip away the noise, the waste, the truly frivolous uses of our time. That just requires habit changes and a bit of self-discipline.

It’s more difficult to look at the list of things that we’re committed to doing, and either decide to break the commitments, to wrap things up as soon as we can, or to just do the bare minimum to scrape by in order to preserve energy for the few things that fall within some prescribed focus areas.

And this is exactly what I’ve been wrestling with lately. I know with a high degree of certainty what I want to focus on–but I am far less certain that I’ll be able to wrap up, let go of, or underserve the things that I would need to blur in order to gain that focus.

This may be why we don’t discuss the blurry side of the productivity equation. No one likes to talk about what they’re giving up in order to get the things they’ve set their sights on.

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