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Coach’s Corner – Focus on Focusing

“If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.” – unknown

A lot of folks these days are challenged with having too many opportunities and options. Think that’s overly optimistic? Well, from my coaching experience, I found that even those who describe themselves as being “stuck” or not knowing where next to go in their career eventually realize they have many options, and their challenge is choosing the best option. Some of these folks blame others for not giving them opportunities, while others conclude that their own fears and saboteurs hold them back.

 

Regardless of how we might view our future, I think we can all agree we prefer to have clarity – clarity about what direction our career should go, which projects and opportunity to accept and which to turn down, or what skills are most important for us to learn.

 

Many things in our modern life are unclear, because of vast volumes of information we receive, contradicting opinions coming through media channels, and ever changing landscapes in things we take for granted, including our work schedule. To find clarity, we must develop our ability to focus. I’m not talking about focusing on tasks by putting your phone on vibrate or moving your workspace out of the kitchen, but on bigger-picture focus on goal-setting that serves our life-purpose.

Clarity Provides Focus, and Focus Provides Clarity

The symbiotic relationship between these two elements is the key to fulfilment in our careers…let’s be bold – in our lives!

 

To help my clients find clarity, we start with a simple but transformational process of identifying components of what forms their purpose, including their vision, values, strengths, saboteurs and goals. Although basic, this is the most challenging, time-consuming and worthwhile exercise in this process. When done right, the result is a useful map that clearly identifies relevant landmarks and boundaries for guiding their career choices. This type of self-awareness and self-evaluation is the clarity that provides focus for the individual. In other words, knowing what you want to do and what you find important helps you focus on things that matter most to you.

 

When your goals are focused, you don’t worry as much about missing out on opportunities, because you can clearly evaluate the pros and cons, and return on investment to yourself. You understand and accept the opportunity costs. You don’t have to feel guilty about saying “No,” and your colleagues will not take offense when you choose not to participate or contribute to a project.

 

“Less is more”

Have you ever heard people say this and thought, “What does that even mean?!” (Okay, maybe it was just me.) Focus prevents you from being distracted by every bright shiny object that comes into view. Focus allows you to concentrate on things that matter to you – fewer things that will give you more in return. By concentrating your efforts on less things, you can generate more value.

 

What examples of “Less is more” have you seen or implemented by focusing? Please feel free to share you tips in the Comment section below.

Check out more blog posts in this series: Coach’s Corner.

 

Photo by Stefan Cosma on Unsplash

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24 Comments
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  • Great blog Jason! The ability to focus, I feel, is getting harder and harder as everyone is fighting for another's time in the 'attention economy'. Since last year, I've cut back on my distractions including social media-- my rule is to only use social media on the weekends, holidays or when I am travelling. It's helped bring back my ability to focus since I'm not getting all these dopamine-filled notifications. So I guess in this case, less socializing is more 😛

    • Hi Barbara,

      Thanks for reading the post and your wonderful example! Less of social media definitely gives us more time and ability to concentrate on what matters most to us. Of course, not saying social media is bad for all. If social media were my focus, I would certainly look for ways to get more done in less time by using tools or strategies.

      Good luck with your focus areas, and wishing you lots of success in your 2021 goals!

  • The opening quote tells us all about what to expect in the blog.  Yes, it is helpful to be aware of the opportunity cost and have the courage to say 'no' when required.  True - clarity gives focus and focus gives clarity.

    Having the big picture view of what we want and what we can do better always helps us than being distracted by every bright shiny object that comes into view.

     

    • Thank you Amit! I'm glad to learn you've already started your journey to identify your focus. Please don't hesitate to reach out to me - I'd love to hear about your progress.

  • Great blog post Jason, I'm definitely someone who dives right in and may lose focus on trying to jump into too many things at once. This really helps set the stage and prepare me to get focused.

    • Thank you Joshua! Glad to hear you're preparing to get focused.

      There's plenty of research to show that quality suffers from multi-tasking and dividing our attention for individual tasks. But we don't need research to tell us what we can see and experience for ourselves.

      I use what I know about myself as a strategy to stay focused - for example, I take pride in my work and believe that it takes dedicated time, education and practice to produce high quality work, so this becomes my motivation to be focused on what I do. By not being focused, I risk putting out something I may not be proud of.

  • Thank you for sharing Jason! During this challenging times distraction and lack of focus from my perspective can be my worst enemy. I’m starting a journey where I am more observant of how do I manage time and of course the quality invested in x activity during the day. I’ve also come to the belief that physical exercise at the very begining of my day has helped me a lot to stay focused for a longer period of time and I have more energy and creativity!

    • Hi Nelly, thank you very much for reading the post and your comment!

      I like the tips and your intentional and cognizant approach in managing time and quality invested in activities. Kudos to you for taking on the early morning exercise regime! I, too, have set aside time to exercise each morning, and must admit to my failures here. Perhaps I need an exercise-buddy to keep me accountable? 😉

      • I'm doing a program called 54D and it is all about discipline because honestly motivation is not enough some days and our agendas as pretty tight so... more than welcome to partner with you! I exercise everyday from monday to saturday @7am CST! Send me a message!

  • Focus requires discipline, but it can turn into a habit if you get the strength inside you to say "no" to the things that distract you the most.

    I have a few of examples of less is more:

    1. Having conversations with my family with no mobile device in my hand to avoid temptations.
    2. Transform distractions into a price. For example,  checking the mailbox after completing a task or checking the mobile notification at lunchtime after a successful morning.
    3. Turning on the webcam for meetings, especially the 1:1 meetings that are important for you or the other person.

    All of this isn't easy, especially in present times where everything aspect of our life is blended, but your need to pick your battles and pat your back after every little success.

    • Hi Marisa, thank you for sharing those examples! It is tough to reduce or eliminate bad habits and replace them with good habits. It certainly takes will power and discipline. 🙂

      I love your strategy of using rewards! Only getting to take on more once you've completed a focused-task. Even little successes deserve a celebration!

  • Very nice blog, I really liked the conclusion sub-topic explaining the importance of 'Simplicity' - less is more. Thank you for the blog. I will re-focus on what I need to focus in 2021 adopting 'less is more'!

    • Hi Chethan, thank you for reading the post and your message!

      I'm glad to hear you will be reviewing your focus for 2021! Good luck and please let me know how it goes. 🙂

    • Thanks for reading the post, Bernhard! Please feel free to check out other posts in the Coach's Corner series, and please share your own perspectives and experiences as well. 🙂

       

  • Now I'm going backwards to read some of the posts I missed.

    Focus?  Can anyone have it now?

    I think you can have it to a point.   Here's an example - a normal day in my life:

    1.  Center myself in the morning.  Watch something non-real on the TV.  Not the news.  I tend to put on something fluffy.   While it's on, I may do something like a simplistic game on my computer.  (But as you can tell, I don't focus on one thing.)  At this point all is well because my goal is to "chill out before work".  Sometimes I don't have the time to do this and it puts my whole day off center.
    2. If I have time, stop into SCN for a visit.
    3. Start work on that big project I have.  These days I seem to be learning a lot while working - so when I get stuck search the internet, phone a friend, or see an index in a book.  Still focused - I'm working on that big project.
    4. 8:00 AM hits - now this is where my focus is usually not on what I want to be doing.
    5. Calls to ask questions.
    6. Calls for some quick fixes that they can't do on their own.
    7. E-mails for questions.
    8. A constant changing priority from one project to the next.  There is a good deal of multi-tasking.  Sometimes I may even drop a project for a month.
    9. End of day - quick sign off before someone calls me or e-mails me.  Usually works as people are good at my work.
    10. Quick leave the home office.

    So reading about my day - I can't really be focused.  Yes, that means loss of time.  You can't pick something up and then easily transition back to that big project.   Sometimes it is needed.  Big projects are well long.  I need a break sometimes.  But a lot of times, it is unavoidable distractions.

    Now with two large distractions.  They both have top priority.  I tend to set expectations.  (That's big) Then work on them one at a time.

    <Sigh>  I don't see it changing anytime soon.  Not to say my boss doesn't try to stop some of these.  But he isn't always successful  either.  Actually it's not so bad.  It looks bad as I type it up.  But I don't mind having more than one thing to work on.

    I could say all that work time is one big focus - my job.

    As for knowing where I'm going - 😉   I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Perhaps someday I won't like what I do.  

    My next question to you.  I think it's OK not to have a goal to move up or sideways.  Sometimes it's OK to have the goal to keep doing a great job, and learning new and fun things.  For the most part love what I do.  SAP technologies are constantly changing.  That's a fun day for me.

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  • This is fantastic, Michelle! Thanks for your comment and sharing how your day looks.

    What I like about your comment is that it shows that you know yourself well - what keeps you engaged and energized, when you need your breaks (and how you want to take your breaks), as well as a support network created to manage overload. Sounds like you've also established rules on how you prioritize your assignments and time. Some folks need constant pressure to do great things, while others thrive with more unstructured time. For me, it's the same with goals and goal-setting - at times, we have very specific and measurable goals, whereas other times it can be simply to enjoy your day however you like. 🙂

  • Thanks for guiding me to your blog Jason, and great post indeed.

    As I reflect back on what I just read, I am watching my cat play with a ball (her favorite toy). She is completely focused on her game, and nothing around her matters anymore. The ball is her world. I have to admit, I envy her. If I try to pet her, she doesn't want it. If I present her with food, she goes back to her ball. If I try to distract her with another "shiny object" - no go - back to the ball. I want that kind of focus, which would allow me to be confident when saying "No" to someone, knowing my boundaries.

    I am currently reading "Deep Work" by Cal Newport and find it very interesting. Getting to that level of concentration and focus would certainly help me in chasing 1 rabbit at the time. 🙂

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    • Hi Viviane, I love your description of your cat, and how focused she is with her ball. It seems we can learn a lot from our pets. We learn a lot just from observing and making connections.

      Being focused is very much related to "being present." You may find common sentiments in this post: Coach’s Corner – Leo Tolstoy on Being Present.

      Thanks for mentioning Cal Newport's book. I would like to check this out. 🙂