The most worthwhile things take time. I feel like we somehow forgot about that.
Okay, actually, I forgot about that. For the past year, I’ve been chasing results. I hoped they’d come from “just 10 minutes a day,” “showing up no matter what” or “writing a daily blog post until one of them hits.”
Now, I see the part I’ve been missing: a longer attention span. The results we want don’t come from doing things half-heartedly. They arise when we learn to put our minds to something for the long haul.
On a macro-scale, this means you can’t build a career or business in 6 months. No matter how much hustle gurus advocate it, there are processes you can’t speed up. Learning. Inner growth. Digging out your core message. These things are bound to take time — and it’s good they do.
On a micro-scale, you won’t get the deep work done within your “10 minutes a day.” Simply showing up without a deeper intention won’t do the job. This is just not how the mind works.
To enter a state of flow, you need to relax, think and focus for larger chunks of time.
I’m starting to acknowledge how important a long attention span is. I’m shy to work on it because the variety of distractions still intimidate me. I don’t know if I can resist checking news and updates. I sometimes worry that I won’t be able to reclaim my focus.
At the same time, I see that I must. To paraphrase Pablo Picasso, without a longer attention span no serious work is possible.
I can see that with writing. For months, I’ve been trying to establish a morning journaling routine. The problem was, I just wanted to check another box and be able to say I did it. But what I wrote each morning felt dull. The insight that journaling advocates claimed was bound to happen wasn’t there.
I couldn’t understand why — until one day, I journaled for one hour straight, uninterrupted. This was a profoundly different experience. After 30 minutes of babbling, I started seeing wisdom coming from my sentences.
I was writing things straight out of my subconscious and it felt amazing. But, I needed to work my way through the initial half an hour of trivialities. Only then I got to the juicy stuff.
It isn’t just writing that requires a longer attention span. I noticed the same with running. The first 20–30 minutes feel like a struggle. Then — usually after a short break and a few stretches — my body and mind enter a different mode.
When I’m in it for long enough, running becomes the default state. That means that it’s easier to continue doing it than to stop — even if I’m tired.
The mind is reluctant to changing occupation. When you focus on something for long enough, your mind gets used to it. This enables you to dwell in that activity even longer. You can go deeper into it. You can reach insight, build stamina and do the deep work.
Daily, checklist-like commitments are still valid. They are a form of training. For the past week, I’ve been writing on Medium daily. These posts take a short time to write and it’s unlikely they’ll lead to groundbreaking insight.
Their main purpose is to exercise the writing muscle. This way, I’m training to endure longer sessions. That’s when I can focus on the best results. That’s how I’m planning to create my most important work.