So now we know that focus is a unique and precious resource—one that we can cultivate or sabotage by what tasks we do and how we choose to do them. We know that distraction can be a good thing and that there is a time for diversion, a time for deep focus, and a time for multitasking.
But our choice to focus or not doesn't happen in a vacuum. We are all subject to hidden factors that affect our ability to focus—factors that we can either harness (sailboat) or endure (raft). I call these factors the Four E's, and they will inform the strategies we discuss throughout the rest of this book.
Our energy levels affect our ability to focus. The less energy we have, the harder it is to focus. The longer we focus, the harder it is to maintain focus. This is a concept called ego depletion.1 According to the theory, every decision you make makes the next more difficult, and every bit of energy you spend focusing intently on a task decreases the energy you'll have to focus on the next. Making yourself listen to Uncle George drone on, for instance, means you'll be too mentally exhausted to resist diving into Instagram for an hour. It gets harder to make good decisions over time.
That's why marathons, cycling competitions, and triathlons all start in the morning, even in the dead of winter. That's when endurance athletes have the most energy and, therefore, perform best.
Although not all of us are morning people, most of us tend to flag as the workday ...