“Our life always expresses the result of our dominant thoughts.” — Soren Kierkegaard
One of my mentors, a seasoned manager at Microsoft, once told me that the difference that makes the difference – why some people succeed and others do not – is focus.
Those that lack focus spread themselves too thin, or never finish what they start. They have a lot of dreams and ideas that they never spend enough time working on to make any progress.
Focus on Less to Achieve More
On the flip side, those with focus, know what they want to accomplish, and they apply concentrated effort, and see it through to completion.
They also focus on less to achieve more.
I was responding to an email from somebody going through 30 Days of Getting Results, but I thought this might be good to share more broadly.
Her question was basically, how do you improve your focus and how do you do the things you know you need to do, but that you might rebel against?
The first thing I pointed out is that it’s good to build the Friday Reflection habit. To do that, it’s a good practice to set a recurring appointment for yourself, first thing in the day on Friday, before your day gets crazy busy. Think of it as your best time to invest in yourself time.
Choose Your Focus
As far as dealing with rebelling against the tasks before us, here’s my take. You have to find your “Why.” It’s hard to do something no matter how good it is for us, unless we know “WHY” we are doing it. And, it has to be meaningful for YOU.
Changing your language is the simplest way. For example, I don’t HAVE to do that … I CHOOSE to do that, or I WANT to do that.
Consider the consequences if you don’t do it — and compare against if you do do it — and then put the spotlight on the benefits and things you want out of it.
As far as focus, aside from little attention thieves, continuous distractions, competing choices, interrupt-driven work, there’s another challenge in today’s world of rich possibilities …
I Want to Do It All …
I want to do it all, or at least, give it my best shot.
But, there’s only so much time in the day, and so much time in this life. The key is what I call “30 Day Improvement Sprints” or “Monthly Improvement Sprints.” (I should probably rename them to “30 Day Focus Sprints.” That’s really what they are – it’s all about focus.) I say 30 days, but really, I prefer to think of it as a focus for the month, and with a theme.
For example, for me, this month it’s all about RENEWAL. Each day for the month, I find something small to do, and occasionally something big — my stretch. Each month is a turn of the page. I can repeat it, or add something new. So I use these Monthly Focus Sprints to cycle through my interests. That puts 12 big things under my belt for the year. It’s how I can do more, but with focus and with a theme . The theme makes it meaningful, and a month is a great period to remind yourself, “What is this month about?”
It’s like that Mary Anne Radmacher quote, “Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” And, you get about 30 days to try a little each day.
It’s also a great way to turn the page, and get a fresh start each month.
Use “Focus Sprints” to Focus for the Month
So, for focus in the big picture, I use bigger blocks of time — the year, the month, the week, the day.
I identify and focus on Three Wins each year, each month, each week, and each day.
Do I nail it all? No, but it helps give me something to aim for, and by making it a win, I make it fun, and it helps me get clear on “who’s it for?” and “what’s the value?”
I use 30 Day Focus Sprints each month, to apply some extra elbow grease and get over humps or rekindle interests or learn something new or just make my month matter more.
Use “Timeboxing” to Focus Right Now
Then there’s the little moments of focus, within the day, or for the week, where we have the chance to get more out of the time we spend, and direct our attention to make things happen.
To focus in batches during the day, I primarily use Timeboxing and Compelling Outcomes. If the outcome or results are compelling, it reminds me to focus. I also try to eliminate as many conflicts of interest as possible, and have a time and place for things.
Here are two guides I wrote to go deep on how to improve focus:
- Focus Guidelines – A collection of patterns and practices re-train your brain to focus with skill.
- How to Focus – a step-by-step article to show you how to improve your focus and direct your attention with skill.
When you apply focus to areas in your life, the results can be amazing. Remember, you get more of what you focus on.
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- Changing Focus
- Focus Checklist
- Focus Changes Your Brain
- Focus Quotes
- Information X Focus = Personal Reality
Image by Rmonty119.