Focus is the answer to every problem.
That’s what I say in my book Be The Leader You Want To See. It is aimed at people who regularly suffer from overwhelm, are constantly distracted by pleasing other people, and busy with activities that don’t move their needle.
I began to assess latterly whether, in fact, there might also be a downside to having focus. Here is my story and conclusion (with a helpful five step process) that I hope will prevent you falling into the same trap.
I work on the basis that we can only give our whole focus to one thing at a time. When you have no track record of having focus this is a great approach. It holds your attention and exposes those goals that we aren’t really committed to.
If you say that your number one priority is to get a promotion, then you can measure your progress against that goal by the number of positive actions you took towards it. If you say that your number one priority is to shed 7lbs by the time of your staycation, and you are thinking this in the queue for a drive thru McDonalds (I am giving myself away by correctly spelling that!), then there is something awry.
A couple of months ago I found myself is a huge state of overwhelm as I decided very quickly to sell my house. The fire was put under me by an estate agent who wouldn’t let me view my desired house until mine was sold. Not just on the market, sold! Strange times. The long list of things I had been meaning to do on the house suddenly became like one of my old corporate projects – you know the kind – the ones that only you are asked to deliver, because everyone else has failed or wouldn’t even be trusted to lead. I was all over the deliverables, using every moment in the day to tick something off the pre-valuation list. 25 minutes between clients: that’s enough time to paint half a window. 10 mins before the school pick up: I could at least mask off the stairs so they are ready to paint in the morning. Seriously high performance stuff.
The upside: yes my house was valued, put on the market and sold within 2 weeks.
The downside: I did absolutely nothing else to meet my other goals.
Now it was only a short period of time, of course, so you might be wondering why this article is going down the route of a “lesson learned”. The truth – that relentless focus did indeed achieve what I said my number one goal was, but it came at the expense of other contributions I would have been making to my personal and business life.
So while I still buy into focus being the answer to achieving the things you want in life, I would like to caveat it by saying that focus doesn’t have to involve 100% of your attention or time. Instead,
Focus requires a consistent and persistent contribution.
I would not be in this position of playing catch up on my other goals if I had simply weighted my focus to avoid the “cost” that came with it. For example, if I give 60% of my time to my number one goal, and spend an hour a day in sales and marketing for my business, or exercising or meal prepping, none of my other goals need to come to a standstill. Did I need to spend every minute of the day focused on selling the house? Actually no. What I needed was to
Do one thing at a time until all of the associated tasks were complete.
When you take an approach like this it really only looks like an hour a day of activity with lots of space available to respond urgently to things that make the process go faster.
So, when you think about your number one goal, try this:
Five Step Approach:
- State: Clearly state it – what it is specifically and why it needs your primary focus
- Time: Dedicate a proportion of your time to it so it doesn’t fill up your head
- Mindset: what makes you feel good that is non-negotiable – exercise, time outside etc.
- Space: Allocate space in your diary to manage it daily
- Pace: Ask yourself which other balls can be paused or slowed, but not dropped
In reality I spent significantly longer worrying about selling my house than actually contributing to it. If I had maintained the things that keep me mentally well during that time, it would have been a lot less stressful.
I’d love to know if this helps a situation that is consuming your focus. I hope this helps you spend less time and make a greater impact, while looking after your mindset.
If you need my help to spot the unhelpful pattern and readjust your course, book a call here – I have allocated time for your call 😊
About the author
Susie qualified as a Performance Coach in 2006, to enhance her skills as an award-winning leader of global product development; connecting her natural style in energising people to take action, with her empathy. Realising it was OK to be herself in leadership, she set about helping other high performers to get clarity and engage support such that their personal fulfilment fuels their careers.
Nothing gets past Susie – she sees all your brilliance and will call out limiting behaviour so you surrender chuckling. Susie is an articulate, empowering, and occasionally hilarious speaker, who brings laser focus and an enormous heart to sustainable growth. She is the author of Be The Leader You Want To See and leads the utterly transformational Reset Retreat.
She loves to connect with readers – you can find her here:
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