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Ways to get better at focus

There is a strong chance you have learned how important it is to critically evaluate what you do at work, what to focus on, what to delegate, ignore or move to a lower priority.

In fact, look back on a recent success you had. Did you focus on achieving it, or did you only think and act on it when you got around to it? You probably tuned out other distractions in order to focus on it like a bobcat focusing on his prey.

Yes, you have to focus, think, and act every day on those priorities. You needed continued tenacity over an extended time period.

It’s hard to do. It means constantly reevaluating what you are spending precious time on, and knowing when it is ok to work late into the night, when you must sacrifice other important things, like balance in your life to spend more of your time and effort on specific projects.

You must be very serious on those one or two priorities, because you will just frustrate yourself if too many things are critical, or you create too many goals, and too many actions.

How do you decide? Which have the biggest impact on your success?

The hard way, learning from the past

One way is to fail to prioritize. I don’t mean for you to intentionally fail, but look back on what happened last time that you brought a project in on time and across the finish line. Do you realize then that you should have let go of other things, you should have said no to others? What suffered because you did not critically decide on only one or two priorities? Did you say yes to everything? Do you have the scars to prove it? Your people may be exhausted, you have tapped them for that extra effort too many times. You are exhausted, you may have damaged relationships along the way because you could not say no. Ouch. That is the hardest way to learn. How will you say no the next time? How will you handle competing priorities next time? Remember that if the stakes are high, you may not get that next time to prove yourself.

A better way

Ask yourself what are the possible risks? If project B falls through the cracks so that A will succeed, maybe that is ok.

Or maybe you can renegotiate project B so that you have more time to work on it next quarter, next half…

Communicate to your team about the key priorities and why. This way they will understand your heightened urgency and they will support you in that priority. Send a clear message on why it is important to focus on it.

Clarity

Role clarity is tantamount. You must facilitate the definition of everyone’s roles and expectations around clarity. If people don’t know what their role is, they cannot function. This will immediately clarify and speed up your processes and you can work more smoothly on your priority. It will help the whole team. You must communicate roles and communicate for clarity continuously. If you feel like a broken record, that’s ok.

Sometimes we use the Urgent/Important model by Covey to help discern between Urgent daily tasks vs. Important strategic initiatives. That may be enough to help you reprioritize to create space for that very critical area to focus on.

Anticipate the obstacles

Anticipate them and create work arounds. The bobcat hunts during the time of day with the least distractions, the fewest humans around. So get prepared on how you will handle distractions. Plan on how you will manage them. The next post will help you structure your priorities.

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