The Focus of a Polymath

TL:DR | Finding your focus, or what you should focus on in life is a hard task. For someone who is multidisciplinary it can feel nearly impossible. Here is how you get started.

4 min read
The Focus of a Polymath
A life of ultimate focus. I thought it would help those trying to improve their multidisciplinary life.

While we may not be Ronins, there are a lot of things that we can learn from that lifestyle. Being adaptable to change, choosing to not have preferences, and optimizing your schedule to incorporate many things.

Sure, there wasn't much room for the sake of love in the Ronin's life, and that may be something you have to account for (such as if you have a family). However as a swordsman, Buddhist, among other pools of interest/knowledge Musashi had to manage his time well.

We must take a similarly disciplined approach, if we are to be successful at tackling our divergent-polymathic interests.

Finding the Middle Path of Macro and Micro

In your life you'll have a main focus, whether it is a particular career, or perhaps your hobby. That can change on a dime if we so choose, but usually a "main" interest will stick around for a while. I'm not keen on comparing this to hyper-fixations, but for some neurodivergent people you may need to meditate on that.

For the neurotypical take it with the mindset that you're not always going to be invested fully into this career or new endeavor. Perhaps you decided to learn to code so that you could leave your current job, that "Main" job became something secondary TO YOU. Your new main interest became learning that coding skill so that you could change your life.

That all pertains to the macro/main interest, the big picture, and in order to make progress you have to account for your micro actions. The little bit each day, chipping away at the big mountain ahead, and what you are doing to make progress.

Additionally, micro-focus is a matter of the small interests as well. Not just the actions, but the micro areas of interest that crop up. Your friend learned a new skill, you got a new piece of tech, or something that pops up in life that peaks your interest. That becomes your newest fixation, and your actions will change accordingly. Maybe you watch videos on it, or read on it, but the point is that you change your evenings to start learning about IT instead of your macro goal.

This is a continuation of the series of becoming a Polymath:

Journeys to Polymathy: Juggling vs Back to Back
Are you taking the jack of all trades approach, or the specialist? Why not try to do both, and become more of a T-Shaped person. Mastering your own life system to pursue all of your interests in a planned way.

Focus on What YOU Can Control

Sometimes we get overwhelmed with all of the things you want to do. One thing I find myself lucky to have, is the skill of managing the architecture of focus.

Let me explain. I can visualize the size of various projects or interest, and gauge the priority of what should be tackled next. It isn't perfect by any means, having my Notion system certainly has helped, and who knows maybe it is a more common skill to have. However I thought it prudent to point out, and even if we THINK we have that skill we could be wrong.

The point is that I am organizing the tasks and challenges in an order that seems best to snowball. At times your internal laziness can impact your decision, so you need to be honest with yourself. Think am I saying that this should be next because it the most ideal, or because I think it is easier to do right now.

What matters more than the difficulty is how it all flows in the orchestration of your various pools of knowledge.

Decide What SHOULD Deserve to Be YOUR Focus

Think of yourself as the conductor, and you need to make sure that the back is playing in tune with the front. The front and center is the macro focus, and the back players are the various micro-focuses.

Sometimes you'll get a synergy too, that the micro-focus you are working adds something useful to your macro-focus.

Cut the Weeds

Many of you generalist minded people aren't going to like this, but you do have choose something. In the long run you may be able to pursue everything, but we only have so much time in the day.

The cool thing about micro-focus interests is that they don't HAVE to stick around. The only reason they often do is that we are faced with the sunk cost fallacy, and you don't need to worry about that as much as you might think you need to.

We spend time on things that we leave all the time. What matters is if that interest helped you at all, did you learn any lessons, and how hard would it be to get back into it again down the line?

Incorporate Past and Future Interests

As we get better at conducting our interests we can start doing some really interesting things when it comes to time management. You can start to layer your previous interests, keep them up or "aflame" ever so slowly, and over time start to add more to the list. Yes, there is a limit to how many, and no I don't have a number to share.

Depends on the person, amount of free time, and level of discipline.

Micro Actions on Your Macro Plan

Take everything little by little, and over time you'll achieve progress in your main goal. Along the way you'll add progress to your various micro-focuses/goals, and they can all be built up together.

The problems that arise usually come from juggling too much without a system.

Make sure you have plans in place, forgive yourself when you mess up, and try to stick to your plans as much as possible.s

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