As a leader, you already understand the importance of focus. It’s the reason you’re able to stay on track and make great strides toward achieving your objectives.
But staying focused isn’t easy. Every day, new distractions, challenges, problems, and interruptions threaten to derail you from tackling your to-do list. It’s hard to protect yourself from the noise. Focus helps you stay on task so you can meet your objectives.
Here are six pragmatic ways to stay focused:
Park Ideas Immediately
Innovation and flexibility are powerful ingredients in growing a business. If you’re lucky, you’ll get new ideas every day that are itching to be explored. Tempting as is it is to immediately jump to the whiteboard to brainstorm the latest idea as a team, it’s extremely disruptive.
[ctt template=”4″ link=”0UdeM” via=”no” ]Innovation and flexibility are powerful ingredients in growing a business.[/ctt]
Not only does it shift your focus, everyone you draw into the exploration is disrupted as well. That shatters productivity. And later, when it’s time to start working seriously on this idea, you’ll need to have this same kickoff discussion all over again.
For those reasons, it’s better to park new ideas immediately. Put them on a list and don’t bother exploring them further until they become the item you’ve chosen to focus on.
Work in Tiny Sprints
You already know constantly switching from project to project is insanely unproductive. Multi-tasking is an illusion.
But as a busy executive you don’t have the luxury of staying focused on a project for hours on end. Taking a play from agile project management principles, the trick is to never take on a whole project – just work one task at a time.
As a new project comes into focus, start by identifying the smallest deliverable that will move the project forward. Agile leaders focus on that deliverable and ignore everything else (and don’t let its scope creep as you work).
As soon as you complete this small task, you have moved the project forward and have a clean starting point for when you return to this project. More importantly, you can now switch to whatever task now demands your time, which will probably be something other than the project you just made progress on.
Get work done – task-by-task. When a ‘boil the ocean’ project arrives, just identify the next small task that will move this bigger project forward, and get it done.
Set Your Strategy and Stick to It
It’s important to pause and reflect on your key business strategies and tactics. But once set, stick to them.
[ctt template=”4″ link=”abD7B” via=”no” ]It’s important to pause and reflect on your key business strategies and tactics.[/ctt]
Here’s a simple example: Every month, someone on the team spots an interesting tradeshow opportunity they toss into the discussion. But at Jostle, we chose to focus our time on improving our product, people and culture. We made a strategic decision to spread the word about our business through content marketing instead of tradeshows. If we paused to consider and debate each “shiny object” that was thrown our way we would lose focus on our current task, and the strategy we set would be rendered meaningless.
To focus on executing your strategy, just say no and return to your task at hand.
Find a Refuge
The workplace is an intense place full of people needing your input and messages alerting you of tasks to be done. When your current task requires serious thinking and creative work, escape the distractions – find a refuge.
This might be at home, in a nearby coffee shop, or on a park bench; whatever works best for you. It’s important to find a place where you are able to give your work the full consideration and thought it deserves.
Work from home or some other “refuge” when a challenging task needs your focus. Encourage your employees to do the same.
Don’t Reopen the Same Argument
Debate is great. As a leader, you should encourage it. However, there comes a time for all good debates to come to a conclusion.
[ctt template=”4″ link=”zgJeA” via=”no” ]Debate is great… However, there comes a time for all good debates to come to a conclusion.[/ctt]
Once the path forward has been decided, everyone must stick to the consensus and not reopen the debate – unless, of course, new data arrives or it becomes clear that the chosen approach won’t work.
When you’re wrapping up a team discussion (debate) on a new project, confirm the path forward. Ensure everyone understands and will fully support it until new data arrives.
Work as a team to curb attempts to reopen the same debate.
Practice Transparent Leadership
The Business Directory defines “transparency” as the lack of hidden agendas and conditions accompanied by the availability of full information required for collaboration, cooperation and collective decision-making. Transparent leadership involves “working out loud” – taking time to help your team understand what you care about and what you’re working on. So, make the roles, objectives and outcomes clear. An internal communications tool or employee intranet makes this easy to accomplish.
The Diary Corporation has found great success using this approach. They have an agile, self-managed company structure and teams distributed across ten countries. Their tools and processes allowed them to quickly form teams around a business objective.
This concept of “working out loud” creates alignment, helps improve employee engagement, and allows your team to understand what you do as a leader and how their roles fit into the larger picture.
Staying focused can be a challenge, especially for leaders. However, it’s key for making the most of your time and building your business.
Following these best practices can help simplify your workday and focus your efforts on the work that matters to your business.