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« How to Do Anything - Part III | Main | Most Popular Forum Topic This Week »

How to Do Anything - Part II

In my previous blog post I said that you can do anything provided that you are willing to pay the price - and that the price is all the other things you could have been doing instead.

To put it another way, the price is being willing to give the project enough time.

As I said in my book Secrets of Productive People the secret of advancing a project is to give it sufficient regular focused attention.

Time is the essence of providing this attention.

And now, an example of how not to do it!

On March 24th, I published an article called My Book Challenge Amended in which I said that I was giving up my idea of reading one book at a time. The reason I gave was that I wanted to read Proust’s Du côté de chez Swann, but because it would take so long I was going to read it along with Tom Holland’s Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic and the third part of Andrew Robert’s Napoleon the Great.

What was the result of this decision? Well, I’ve just finished Rubicon, but I’ve read nothing at all of the other two books.

Now just see what has happened here. What I wanted to do was read a book (the Proust) which would take a considerable mental effort and a large investment of time. What I actually succeeded in doing was to read the easiest book on offer instead. I always went for this easy option rather than the two more demanding books.

The price of reading Rubicon was to have not read Proust. I would much prefered it to be the other way round. I’ve would have liked it to have been that the price of reading Proust was not to have read Rubicon.

Now if I’d decided to stick with my one book at a time rule I would have read quite a bit of the Proust, and none of Rubicon or Napoleon. But since it was the Proust I really wanted to read, that would not be a matter of too much concern.

This is how it works for us if we don’t identify clearly what it is that we want to go for, zero in on it and then devote our efforts to it as a priority.

Tomorrow: How to Do Anything - Part III

Reader Comments (2)

Mark, couldn't you simply have divided the Proust into chunks (mentally!) and made it your rule to read only one book or book chunk at a time?
April 4, 2016 at 13:04 | Unregistered CommenterChris Cooper
Chris Cooper:

That's actually what I'm doing now. It has four natural divisions, so it's easy enough to do. And I'm now making progress - though it's still a slow read.

But the moral was that having given myself more than one target I went for the easiest all the time, even though it wasn't the one I most wanted to have done.
April 4, 2016 at 13:28 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

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