Focus Fuel: 11 Habits

How does Obama reduce decision fatigue?

How does Cheryl Sandberg run Facebook and have a family?

How does Jack Dorsey run Twitter, Square, and 6 miles a day?

Take notes. If they are similar, realize you’re on the right track to success. If you’re different, ask yourself — how do I bridge the gap?

Gordon Ramsay

I cook, I create, I’m incredibly excited by what I do, I’ve still got a lot to achieve.”

Thing: Chef

Gordon wakes up at 5 am to get in a good [triathlon] training before everyone gets up and the workday begins, eats plain oatmeal, works until 9 or 10pm, calls home (England) & talk to his kids, then goes to bed. A busy guy! And he has done well for himself — He owns 35 restaurants worldwide which have earned him 14 Michelin Stars.

How has he achieved these feats? By being involved in as many projects as possible. With his mindset, he likely never takes on a project he doesn’t think will push him towards his visino, and never doesn’t do what he takes on. This requires intense focus in all the projects he takes on, but the root of his projects are something he can’t stop thinking about: cooking.

Powering down for 48 hours on the weekends is necessary for him to be able to keep up with his own need to achieve his goals. His main restaurant in London isn’t even open on the weekends.

Elon Musk

If something is important enough, you should try, even if the probable outcome is failure.

Things: Interplanetary species via sustainable energy

Elon balances his time between SpaceX in LA, Tesla in San Jose (flying between the two by private jet 2x a week) and wherever he wants to go with his family.

The most distinct differences between most people and Musk is his drive and desire to make what he wants to have happen, happen. To him it is, truly, a life or death situation.:

He devotes most of his time to focusing his two projects. These have been his Things since his college years, perhaps earlier. This is not just a personal goal, but an existential goal for humanity — a big goal!

The bigger and more immediately necessary your goals are for yourself, the more likely you waste no time in making them happen.

Cheryl Sandberg

Getting rid of internal barriers is critical to success.

Thing: Empowerment

Cheryl wakes up at 5:30 & turns on her phone — because she keeps it off all night. She gets into work by 7am.

She keeps her meetings quick and moving, writing a to-do list in a paper notebook, crossing off action items, and ending the meeting in 10 minutes.

After each item of the list is crossed off — she throws it away. Done.

She flexes her Network to solve problems — knowing the CEO of EBAY when they owned PAYPAL helped her to solve a problem quickly: everyone wants to help other people find solutions.

She leaves work at 5:30 and heads home for a family dinner.

These habits helped her where she helped increase profits by 1.3 Billion in Sep-Dec of 2014, write a book, and be a Mother.

Steve Jobs

My favorite things in life don’t cost money. Its really clear that the most precious resource we have is time.

Thing: technology/computers

One of Steve Jobs’ greatest source of Focus sprung from his understanding of focusing attention as something that uses up energy. Decision-making requires a huge amount of focused attention. Being an innovative CEO is about focusing on asking good questions, and making good decisions.

Steve Jobs had a great hack for conserving his attention-making energy wisely: clothing.

He wore the same thing everyday, which gave him several less big decision to make. This freed his mind: he didn’t have to decide what to wear or decide where to shop. A Simple, huge time/attention/focus energy saver .

Jack Dorsey

My goal is to simplify complexity. I just want to build stuff that really simplifies our base human interaction.

Thing: human transactions

As a single guy, he doesn’t have the responsibilities of other corporate leaders, so he focuses his time on building his companies.

He wakes up at 5:30 to meditate and go for a 6-mile job. Then he works 8 hours at Twitter, then 8 hours at Square. Rather than spreading himself thinly across all aspects of both businesses, he zones in on one key area of corporate development, pushing everything else out of sight and, well, out of mind. Here’s what his weekly calendar looks like:

from The Next Web

Barack Obama

We need to internalize this idea of excellence. Not many folks spend a lot of time trying to be excellent.

Thing: Hope

Work out from 7:30 until 8:30AM. Then, dress and eat breakfast. “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing,” he told Michael Lewis. “Because I have too many other decisions to make.”

This is very similar to Steve Jobs — reducing decision-making on something that can be automated helps reserve that energy for bigger issues.

Psychological tactics: Shutting out critics — don’t listen to negative opinions about you. this means turning off the TV other than sports. “One of the things you realize fairly quickly in this job is that there is a character people see out there called Barack Obama,” he told Michael Lewis. “That’s not you.”

People might characterize him based on their opinions — but they’re just opinions. There are some things he doesn’t need to be worrying about, and the opinions of talking heads on CNBC and MSNBC are some of those things. If the situation gets big, one of his aides will handle the situation.

He gets to bed around 1am. Between then and 10pm Michelle goes to bed, he has time to be totally alone (pending a disaster which could definitely happen). He uses this time to focus on preparing for the day ahead of him.

This is when his day starts: the night before.


Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 9.33.27 PM.png

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed.

Thing: Author

He would write at the first light of day, when there was nobody to distract him.

You’ll see the need to get away from distractions as a common theme in most creative types. But one thing Hemingway did was quite peculiar:

He wrote until he knew what he was going to write next, then stopped. That way, he could come back to the typewriter, and get right back to work.

It is also helpful to be in the same environment when doing work: He stood up to write.


When I was a child, my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk, you’ll end up as the Pope.’ Instead, I became a painter, and wound up as Picasso

Thing: Painter

Unlike than most artists or authors, Picasso woke up late, went to bed late. But, just as Hemingway, he would shut himself off from everyone, staying at his studio at 2pm and work till dusk. Painting never exhausted him. “while at work I leave my body at the door”.


Books were my pass to personal freedom. I learned to read at age three, and soon discovered there was a whole world to conquer that went beyond our farm in Mississippi.

Thing: Spreading motivation

The first thing Oprah does when she wakes up is to prime herself for optimism. She think about the GOOD things that have happened to hear in her life, the last week and yesterday. Bad things happened too, but she only focuses on the good things. This helps her view the day ahead with optimism — so that when she runs into each situation she makes a decision that will have a positive result.

She meditates, using Transcendental Meditation: he sits in stillness for 20 minutes, twice a day. If time is money, this is a significant investment. Oprah made $82 Million in 2014, so 40 minutes means just over $6,200 per day, or $2.2 M per year investing her time in meditating.

Tim Ferriss

You are the average of the five people you associate with most, so do not underestimate the effects of your pessimistic, unambitious, or disorganized friends. If someone isn’t making you stronger, they’re making you weaker

Thing: Effectiveness.

Tim is a model of effective habits, which start with segmenting his work into batches — focusing on one thing at a time — and includes what we’ve seen from previous features with an “isolation” round. Despite being an early invetor in Twitter, he avoids using it for 90–120 minutes every morning.

He also has a quirky list: your most important “not-to-do” list.

Isolation for Tim is to work from 9–12 with no internet. Any phone calls he needs to make, he batches and takes them during a walk for 1–2 hours.

Michael Phelps

Quote: I like to think of myself as a normal person who has a passion, has a goal and a dream and goes out and does it.

Thing: Swimming

During olympics in Beijing, he would wake every day at 6:30, have breakfast, stretch, and then warm up for exactly 45 minutes. then he put on swimsuit, put on his headphones and listened to his pre-race playlist. At every step of the day, he had small wins. This ritual had been planned for years: he visualized the perfect race before he went to bed, and after he woke up. It was a habit.

For competitive athletes, staying focused under pressure is necessary to win. That is what his visualizations were for. His coach called them “video tapes” that he would “put in” before he raced so that he could dynamically adjust his performance on the fly if anything went wrong in the race.

22 gold medals. This habit works.

Tips for focused action:

  • Design your closet to be as standardized as possible, minimizing the decisions you make in the morning.
  • Have a HUGE goal in mind, and always be thinking how you can be working towards that goal.
  • Give yourself alone time to collect your thoughts. 20 minutes a day.
  • If you need to work and create new ideas, isolate yourself.
  • Give yourself a not-to-do list, and make it HARD for yourself to do those things.
  • Give yourself a to-do list, and make it EASY for yourself to do those things. Set yourself up to win!
  • Visualize success — it’ll keep you going when times get tough.

If you found things that you already do, keep doing them.

If you didn’t think about how you can make it easier to do them.

Either way, sign up for our Focus Fuel Newsletter below and you will learn about:

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Stay Focused,