In the previous post, I discussed the reasons I dislike the term focus. That does not mean that I do not believe that having a good focus is unimportant. Rather, I believe being able to effectively focus your energy, resources, and team around key initiatives that serve the greater good are critical to long-term success. That holds true in any business or environment. The key is effective focus. We defined focus before, so today we’ll concentrate on what good focus looks like.
Focus can be applied to short-term projects for completion or long-term initiatives. Focus is necessary in both cases. For short-term projects, your focus is concentrated on shorter bursts to get components completed. For long-term initiatives, it is about stringing those shorter-term projects together to impact the larger goal. That takes a different type of focus. Jim Taylor wrote an excellent article in the Huffington Post about Focus 1. From that article:
If you do the necessary work in a focused way, you will complete the work and a produce a quality product in the shortest amount of time.
He also talks about what can happen when you do not have a strong focus on what you need to get done.
Without focus, you won’t be as effective in your work because if you’re not concentrating on the right things or are distracted, you won’t be capable of getting your work done.
That begs the question: what makes focus effective? Here are five critical aspects of applying effective focus to what you want to achieve.
Know Your WHY
We have discussed the importance of ‘why’ in previously, but it applies here as well. If you do not know what it is you want to achieve and why it is critical for success, it is unlikely you will select the correct things to focus on. Time and resources are always limited. Ensuring you are lining up the correct actions will be important in order to use those resources most efficiently. Connect the dots from your actions to your desired outcomes. Ensure that your focus is well placed. Know why you are taking those actions.
Once you know why you are moving in the direction you are and the actions you want to take, you need to ensure you dedicate the time to complete those actions. There will always be other things going around you. The business doesn’t stop to let you focus on just what you want. You have to make the time and clear the path for what you need to focus on. Another thought from Jim Taylor.
If you can take control of your ability to focus and block out distractions, you have given yourself a powerful tool that will enable you to perform at consistently high level and be both effective and efficient in your work efforts. The result: better quality work, more success, and achievement of your professional goals.
Once you have selected the right things to focus on, give them the time needed for completion. Think about some short-term actions you may complete in the normal course of a week. Then think about how much more effective you are when you dedicate distraction-free time to completing those. How about writing the next week’s schedule? Is it easier to do it distraction free or, to keep coming back to it throughout the day? Which schedule do you think will be better for the business? The one where you took time away from everything else, and concentrated on what you wanted to achieve with the team, or, the one that was written in pieces over the course of a day or two and then rushed to get done so it could be posted on time? I am willing to bet it’s the one with dedicated time and focus on the desired outcome. Build in time. Find a distraction-free environment. You will be more efficient and effective on what you are focusing on. And that is the purpose of focus.
Limit the Number
You cannot have too many things to focus on at any given time. Limit the number of focus items to ensure that you can dedicate the time necessary to them. These should be the most important items at that moment that will move you towards the necessary result. You may have many things on the list to accomplish but select the critical few for this point in time to focus your attention on. When those are completed, you can move on to the next items to turn your time to. I would suggest that having two, maybe three items would be the most you should focus on at any given time. Limit the number of focus items and watch your productivity and results soar.
While focus is typically an individual event, it can and should apply to the team as well. The other leaders in your location need to share in the responsibility of the outcomes. They can have their own focus items too. The important piece is that they all connect together and are leading to the long-term outcome you are seeking. Your why. Getting the team involved has many of its own benefits. Let them play their role in the success. Teach them how to focus on their pieces. Allow them time to dedicate on focusing on their areas. Share the responsibility and …
This is a huge benefit of effective focus at the team level. Sharing responsibility and connecting to the big picture engages the team at a new level. The ownership that is created allows a connectedness to the long-term outcomes. It makes everyone more effective. The team engages at a high level. Their work and their focus now has purpose beyond just the task itself. Create a sense of ownership and ensure success for your long-term goals.
There are our two sides of focus. It can be something that is overused and becomes its own distraction from success. Or, it can be the catalyst that propels you to new heights.
Start with knowing what you want to do and why.
Limit the things you are working on at any given time. Ensure that those few things will deliver the bigger picture. Share the outcomes with your team. Create buy-in and ownership to build a lasting set of behaviors to deliver consistently on the expected outcomes. Evaluate your actions and outcomes and adjust your focal points as needed.
Make no mistake, focus is needed for long-term success.
How will you ensure your focus is used effectively? Click here or on the comments button above to share your thoughts.
- Focus Is the Gateway to Business Success￼By Dr. Jim Taylor ↩