Last week I wrote about my team engaging in a 36-hour surge effort to complete 1 mission-critical deliverable.
One of the things I learned from that experience is that the idea of focus having two important dimensions.
In one sense, focus has to do with your ability to pay attention to the task you’ve set out to do.
In another sense, focus has to do with what tasks you set out to do.
It’s not enough to be able to maintain attention on what you’re doing if the tasks you’re doing are not valuable or mission-critical.
It’s also not enough to have identified valuable and mission-critical tasks if you don’t have the attention required to accomplish them.
One dimension of focus without the other is a crapshoot.
Achieving focus in both dimensions is an ongoing experiment; here are the practical interventions I’ve come up with so far.
- Using this guiding question from Gary Keller and Jay Pasan to evaluate and prioritize high-impact tasks: “What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
- Limiting weekly priorities / areas of focus to 3 high-impact items max (ideally 1 or 2) and over communicate this to everyone. (See: Ruthless priorities)
- Putting my phone in a different room.
- Silencing all push notifications.
- Blocking out time to think through the biggest challenges at work (highly valuable/underrated — taking time to do this helps you get out of fight/flight mode and approach challenges more effectively).
- Scheduling time to focus on accomplishing tasks — this is especially helpful with managing the urge to refresh e-mail ever 2 minutes (if you know, you know).
- Taking a break whenever it becomes difficult to pay attention. Pulling up YouTube or checking texts doesn’t count, getting away from the desk and moving is essential.