It must be indisputable by now that the world of work we accepted as normal just a few years ago, has gone forever.
The talk when the world’s economies began to dissolve in 2008 into the thin air of which they were largely made was that we’d ride out the bad times to a recovery. But that return to ‘normal’ is unlikely to ever come now.
The demands on employees and entrepreneurs alike are now much more animal, much scrappier, much more demanding of proof-of-worth.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Having to work hard, to innovate and to create a sense of merit around your output is entirely capitalist.
Here’s the dilemma though: in what has been a fairly rapid transition from a cosseted world where money flowed relatively freely toward those who made an effort, to a world in which distractions really do cost money, the principal sacrifice success demands is that of focus.
And most of us are pretty bad at that.
My output has always been pretty high, but I worked out a few years ago that I was achieving no more than four or five truly constructive hours on any average day, and that included an hour in the gym. Nowadays however I’m concerned if I’m not maximising every one of them. I am frustrated at the very thought of television, borderline angry at hangovers, and downright sulky at the wasted hour when a workout doesn’t go well.
You can call it what you want. But it’s my firm belief that focus is the new cool.
As I see it, four hours of decent output in a 24-hour period might really have been the ticket to the game for a guy like me until recently because I’m generally pretty quick, pretty direct and I’ve been immersed in a vocation that I’m quite good at for a while now. I could really make four hours count.
The way things are now however, I think that level of output would be sufficient only to see me marginalised. The reality is that those who ran rings around me back then — and I have to admit there were many who did — were able to extract substantially more from an active day than I ever chose to.
And their level of output, be it eight hours or 12-hours of solid activity seems to be the basic ticket to the new game.
Now I’m not advocating 12-hour desk-bound work days. I’m advocating 12-hours of focused activity however. Work on your body, work on your network, work on your actual work, and work on developing other projects.
The challenge is being realistic about what is focused activity and what is distraction.
I’ve begun CrossFit training at Dream Body Fitness in Sunninghill (with which I have no affiliation other than as a member) because I can maximise the hell out of an hour of workout and I’m better segmenting my day into two principal business projects so that each gets the focus it warrants without spillage or drift.
I’m creating better social/work connections because actually, downtime is no less enjoyable with people who can help me move forward.
The bottom line is that if I want to lead anything around here — and I am choosing to do so — I’ve got to be more focused than those around me. But I kind of think that just makes me the coolest version of myself yet.