Interesting or Vital? The Simple Question to Stay Focused

How do you deal with the daily onslaught of information? What criteria do you use to determine what gets your precious time and attention?

I devised a simple question that helps me quickly decide what to focus on:

Interesting or Vital?

It’s deceptively simple, but whenever I go into “IV” mode, I get more productive instantly. It’s super effective whether I’m trying to power through my in-box or make a crucial life decision.

You can define interesting and vital however you’d like, but mine are defined roughly as:


  • Anything that feels like immediate gratification
  • Virtually every “clickbait” headline
  • Easy things to waste time with
  • Shiny objects
  • Most current news and entertainment articles
  • Stuff that makes me feel like I’ll be “smarter” for looking at it
  • Stuff that leads to more consumption and less creation


  • Things that are specific to the tasks I have at hand
  • Things that are pertinent to growing my business
  • Things that contribute to my health and happiness
  • Things that will help me add more value to the world
  • Things that align with my purpose in life
  • Things that are hard…not the easy “activities” that are not truly productive

It’s crazy how many inputs compete for our attention every day. The mostly free and addictive drugs of email, social media, games, Netflix series, TV shows, etc. do their best to derail us.

Here is just a sample of the headlines that flooded my inbox this week and tempted me to click through — all of which I deemed interesting but not vital:

  • 3 Killer Techniques to Boost SEO
  • A Guide to Social Media for B2B Marketers
  • Three LinkedIn Strategies Working NOW
  • 5 Habits of the Highly Effective Entrepreneur
  • Quick & Easy Ecomm Profits Without a Store
  • 6 Facebook Remarketing Tactics That Work

Try asking yourself this question — “Interesting or vital?” — when you get what researcher David Levy of the University of Washington calls “popcorn brain.” That’s a brain that is so overstimulated by electronic multitasking that it basically makes you a vegetable offline.

Certainly, there are times when you need to veg out, chill, unwind, binge watch House of Cards or whatever. Just be aware of how often life and especially the Web and electronic devices will lure you away from doing the things that really matter.

I love popcorn, but most of the time the answer to the “interesting or vital” question is glaringly obvious. The popcorn can wait.

Originally published at Go For Launch.