To think is easy. To act is difficult. To act as one thinks is the most difficult.
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“Monoidealism is the state of focusing your energy and attention on only one thing, without conflicts. [Also known as a 'flow' state] (229)
The first key to achieving a monoideal state is to eliminate distractions; Kaufman claims that it takes roughly 10-30 minutes of uninterrupted time for your mind to become fully absorbed in the task.
If you feel an inner conflict about doing your work, explore it rather than repress it – your mind is often trying to tell you something important.
When you’re really feeling resistance, try the Pomodoro Technique: set a timer for 25 minutes and focus on a single task for the entire duration of the time, then take a 5 minute break when it’s done.
“If you eliminate distractions and Conflicts before you start your dash, you’ll naturally transition into a Monoideal state a few minutes into the work period.” (231)
Kaufman also recommends meditation as a way to become resistant to distractions.
“While many people assume [multitasking] makes them more efficient, Monoidealism and multitasking are complete opposites. Neurologically, it’s impossible for your brain to multitask. When you’re trying to do more than one thing at a time, you’re not really parallel processing – you’re rapidly switching your Attention from one thing to another.”
“Every time you switch the focus of your Attention from one subject to another, you incur the Cognitive Switching Penalty. In order to take action, your brain has to ‘load’ the context of what you’re doing into working memory. If you constantly switch the focus of your Attention, you’re forcing your brain to spend time and effort thrashing, loading and reloading contexts over and over again.” (232)
In order to avoid mentally demanding context-switching, batch similar tasks together, i.e., have a block of time where you do all of your creative tasks.
The Four Methods of Completion
1.) Completion – doing the task completely; this is the option most people think about, but it should only be used for important things that you can do particularly well.
2.) Deletion – eliminating the task; use this for tasks that are unimportant or unnecessary. “If it’s not worth doing, it’s not worth doing well or quickly” (233)
3.) Delegation – assigning the task to someone else; used for important tasks that someone else can complete almost as well as you can (or even better).
4.) Deferment – putting the task off until later; effective for tasks that are somewhat important, but that certainly aren’t critical.
“Saving noncritical tasks for later is a good way to keep your attention and energy focused on what’s most important…Periodically reviewing this list when you’re looking for something new or exciting to do is quite useful.” (234)
“A Most Important Task (MIT) is a critical task that will create the most important results you’re looking to achieve. Everything on your plate is not critically important, so don’t treat everything on your task list equally…At the beginning of every day, create a list of two or three MITs, then focus on getting them done as quickly as possible.” (235)
Some other points about MITs:
keep your MIT list separate from your other to-do list
use self-elicitation questions such as “What are the two or three most important things that I need to do today?” to help you generate the list of MITs
combining the MIT technique with Parkinson’s Law by setting an arbitrary deadline for your MITs, such as 10:00am, is extremely effective
all of this will help you maintain a monoideal state
“For best effect, your Goals should be under your control. Goals like ‘losing twenty pounds’ are soul crushing because they’re not directly under your control – losing weight is a result, not an effort.” (237)
Kaufman distinguishes between States of Being (such as happiness) and goals: the former shouldn’t be seen as a fixed achievement, but rather, a measure of the quality of your present experience. States of Being make for great decision criteria, but they lead to frustration if seen as a fixed goal to be achieved in the future.
“For best results [in behavior change], focus on installing one habit at a time. Remember, you only have so much Willpower to use each day, and overriding your default mode of action depletes it quickly…Focus on installing one habit until taking action feels automatic, then move on to the next.” (240)
Out of the available options, which experience do I want to have?
-Steve Pavlina’s “tiebreaker” question when making a difficult decision
“The Next Action is the next specific, concrete thing you can do right away to move a project forward. You don’t have to know everything that must be done to make progress on a project – all you need to know is the very next thing you can do to move the project forward.” (246)
“One of the quirks about how your mind works is that it handles information from outside your head better than the thoughts that are rattling around inside your head.” (248)
“There are two primary ways to Externalize your thoughts: writing and speaking. Writing (or drawing, if you prefer) is the best way to capture ideas, plans, and tasks. Not only does writing give you the ability to store information in a form you can reference later, it gives your mind the opportunity to examine what you know from a different angle. Challenges and issues that seem insurmountable while they’re bouncing around in your frontal lobe can often be solved surprisingly quickly after they’re put on paper.”
“If you want to be productive, you must set limits. Juggling hundreds of active tasks across scores of projects is not sustainable: you’re risking failure, subpar work, and burnout.” (260)
“Limits always have consequences – if you’re not prepared to handle the consequences, it’s not really a limit.”
“Like all biological organisms, humans need to rest and recover for peak performance. Taking a break isn’t a sign of laziness or weakness – it’s a recognition of a fundamental human need…Sleep deprivation results in a prolonged down cycle, which gets in the way of getting things done.” (262-3)
“The more Attached you are to a particular idea or plan, the more you limit your flexibility and reduce your chances of finding a better solution…If you become too Attached to the visions you have in your head, you’ll have a hard time adjusting to the inevitable twists and turns of life.” (270)
Kaufman recommends putting a small percentage of your monthly income into a “Personal Research and Development (R&D) Budget”, money you can use (guilt-free) to purchase books, courses, conferences: anything that will help you improve your skills and capabilities.