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Today's Challenge: Personal Focus (Part 2)

Each Friday, I attempt to answer a question submitted by a leader from somewhere in the world. This is part two on the topic of focus. (If you missed Part 1, here’s the link.) This week, Today’s Challenge: How do I (as the leader) maintain focus?

As leaders, we’re pulled in more directions than Stretch Armstrong. It seems that everyone wants our time and attention. Although it is a great feeling to be needed, we still need to find ways to maintain OUR focus. Here are a few ideas that may help.
Set your priorities in advance. This does not mean that your priorities won’t ever change – they will. But as you think about an upcoming week or month, ask yourself: what would success look like? What few things do I want to accomplish above all else during this time? You may want to check out a post I did on this a few weeks ago entitled, For Your Leadership Tool Box…
Set your own schedule as much as possible. Your priorities should drive your schedule. I learned years ago that if I don’t set my schedule, someone else will gladly do it for me. Then, you get to the end of the week or the month, and guess what? You’ve not accomplished those critical few things you hoped to accomplish.
Work outside the office. I’ve found that to periodically work outside the office is a very good thing. It allows time for what you might consider hyper focus. Once outside the office, you can literally focus hours on a critical issue – without interruptions. I target two days per month. If you’ve not tried this, consider it an experiment in personal productivity. The library is a good, quiet place to work, as is your local coffee shop.
Allow blocks of time for important items. Whether in the office or out, you can enhance the probability of sustained focus by scheduling blocks or chunks of time. You’ll have to decide what works best for you. I’ve found two – four hours are good “chunks” for me – 30 – 60 minutes isn’t enough for me to go deep on most issues.
Work from a clean desktop. This a very tactical, somewhat crazy idea that may help more than you think. I heard many years ago that the most successful people do this. Who knows if that’s true or not? I’ve seen no data to substantiate that claim. However, it does help me focus. The piles on your desktop cry out for your attention. Every time your mind wants to wander, it doesn’t have to go far if you have other work on your desktop.  My suggestion: put it in a box, in your desk, or even on the floor. Try it for 30 days. Your focus may improve.
Once you know what to focus on, the battle is only half won; then you get to actually begin the hard work of focusing on the tasks at hand. Good luck![GLS_Shield]
If you were coaching a young leader on how to increase their personal focus, what would you tell them?

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Chris Patton

9 years ago

Mark, this is right on target!
I am NOT an expert or even one who has most of it figured out, but I have done all of these for a period and found tremendous results! Roughly 60 days ago, I had turnover that knocked me out of this zone and I have been scattered since then.
It is only in the last 10 days that I have begun to see progress back to that zone. I can already see some increased efficiency and better focus. The last piece to add back (and the most effective) is the off-site library time. I had it scheduled one morning per week for roughly 4 hours. It is amazing the uninterrupted work that can be accomplished.
Thanks for the reminder and painting that picture for me to pursue!

Keith Moore

9 years ago

Great post today Mark!
Think I’ll go clean my desk now….


9 years ago

Thanks Keith! I got your text about a meeting. I’ll follow-up. Mark

Bill Bliss

9 years ago

If I were coaching a young leader (and I actually do coach young leaders) on how to increase their personal focus, I would suggest that they identify a few key outcomes they want to realize during a specific amount of time, be it a day, week or month. The term “key outcomes” seem to provide more clarity and action than the word “priorities” which connotes an area of focus, yet not necessarily a result.

Sandy Hicks

9 years ago

Good stuff and a great reminder on keeping focus and production at optimum levels


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