How often do you feel tugged in multiple directions during the day, driven by “something urgent?” How often do you succumb to the lure of the shiny object diverting your attention? Perhaps more importantly, how often is your team being diverted and losing focus? In the fast-paced, ever-changing, smartphone-infused world we live in, focus is becoming more and more important, and harder than ever to achieve.
Losing focus is like a low-grade fever – it keeps us from feeling great and getting things done, but after a while, we seem to keep going without noticing the harmful effects it causes. What is the cure? How can we help our teams (and ourselves) be less fragmented and more focused?
Here are six ideas.
Know Your Why
Call it purpose if you want, but when you know why are working, why your work matters, and why you care, it is far easier to remain focused. Consider that your most productive days are also probably your most focused days. Why? Because you know what has to be accomplished and why that is important. Yes, there is likely urgency associated with those days (the product has to be shipped today or my vacation flight leaves in eight hours), but the focus was enhanced by the why. Urgency helps but trying to live a daily adrenaline rush isn’t the best or healthiest way to create greater overall focus.
Continually Build Clarity
On those adrenaline-drenched days, clarity is also heightened. You know exactly the things you must accomplish to be successful. On normal days though, it is easy to forget or lose sight of those most important things. That is why it is important to continue to clarify your goals and purpose. Consider the cyclical effect of looking through a pair of binoculars. The more you adjust your focus to get the clearest image, the more you must redefine and refocus on your targets. Clarity is attractive. The more clearly you can see your destination, the easier it will be to stay the course and avoid distractions.
Have a Plan
You know what you want and why, and that picture is crystal clear. Now, what is your plan to get there? The plan makes things real and gives you something to do. I’m not telling you anything new when I say that. Whether you are talking about a project due in a week, or a bucket list life goal, without a plan your odds of achievement are reduced. But this fact impacts your focus too! A plan on paper is easier to focus on than a good idea and a big reason why. Your focus will be intensified, and you are less likely to be distracted when you have a solid plan.
Know Your Daily Two
The way to give your plan legs is to do something. Too many people have plans with big chunks, things that are very difficult to achieve in one day. When you look at a big task, it is easy to get diverted or to procrastinate. Writing a book? You might not be able to write a chapter today. But you could write 500 words, or outline the next section, right?
Start each day with your daily two – the two things you must accomplish today. Then, whenever you are tempted to get diverted or lose focus, ask yourself. Are my daily two completed today? If not, the question will likely refocus and re-energize you.
Just Say No
Let’s face it, the more things on your list, the harder it is to focus on any one of them. When we can’t say no, even to something that is good, we can’t maintain the focus we need. Don’t give in to FOMO (Fear of Missing Out – here is a video I recorded on that). I know saying no to good things is hard – until we acknowledge that sometimes we must say no to the good in order to achieve the great.
Start with Yourself
All of these ideas apply to us as individuals and as a part of a team. I promised in the title to give advice to leaders – and while the other five points apply broadly, this last one is critical. It’s simple to say and hard to do: If you want your team to be more focused, be more focused yourself.
When you stay focused, you are sending less new things to them that will divert their attention. Your actions will be an example of the focused behavior you want from them.
We can create more focus for ourselves and others. Following these pieces of advice is a serious step in that direction.
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