Focus on What Matters Most

Avoid Making Beautiful Garbage

Learning to focus creates more efficiency and ultimately more time and freedom. This is great news, however it is becoming more and more challenging to choose what to focus on with the onslaught of opportunities coming our way. What we focus on is just as important as being able to focus. 

Recently I had a conversation with a client who is a designer for a financial services company about a concept he calls designing “beautiful garbage.”  He was explaining a common pitfall of designers who fall in love with their designs and forget to check in with clients about their needs and desires.  Beautiful garbage is the product of focusing too narrowly on what you are creating so that you lose scope of what is meaningful to the customer, client or user. 

After this conversation, I began pondering where in my life I might be designing beautiful garbage and I found a few pieces of trash.  I think we can all fall prey to working on something that we have invested ourselves in for far too long without checking in with our customers, clients and family about what they may need and want.  

We can avoid this trap by focusing on what matters most.  If we plan our time to focus on what is important to our customers and clients, family and friends, we will be designing more useful things and less garbage. This extra mindful step can save precious time and ultimately allow for noodling on creative project just for ourselves.


We are bombarded daily by messages designed to make us believe things matter that most likely do not actually matter to us. How do we sort through all of the chatter to find what matters most?

1. Get very quiet and trust your intuition.
Our intuition is our inner voice that speaks when we get quiet and listen. Using intuition gives us the ability to know something directly without analytic reasoning, bridging the gap between the conscious and unconscious parts of our mind, and also between instinct and reason.
Take 10 minutes and explore in writing what is important to you in a given area. Just put your pen to paper and continue to write without thinking for the full 10 minutes. Write about why it is important and what happens in your life when you forget it. You can also ask your intuition to write about what is most important. If your inner critics and gremlins are quiet, your intuition will answer.

2. Know what you value.
Humans make decisions based on what they value. Our values are standards which create repeatable behaviors and clarify who we are and what we stand for. They help determine our tastes, our way of life, and our social, political, and religious affiliations. Knowing your values will help you choose what to focus on.
Try to limit your values to a few keywords that define how you operate. This process forces you to make a decision about what matters most. Research Professor and Author Brene Brown has a great list of values to consider:

3. Take a look back.
What has worked in the past? When you have been successful in the past, where were you and what were you doing? Who has around you and what environment were you in? Looking back on the highlights of you life will give you insight into what matters most.

4. Know what is working NOW!
Be honest, what in your life is supporting your growth right now? Who truly has your back and is inspiring you. Notice the type of environment that helps you to feel centered and grounded. Which behaviors or practices are enriching your wellbeing?

*Photo is a sculpture made from recycled debris on a building in Porto, Portugal.  

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