As entrepreneurs and business leaders, we have much on our plate trying to balance work life, family life, and giving to our communities. It’s easy to lose focus and that can slow down or stall our progress. Focus is a “superpower” that can help us achieve extraordinary results and shave hours off of our workweek.
One of the lies of success that people often buy into is that you get ahead by working just a little harder, and just a little longer than everybody else does. You get up at dawn or before dawn — you are the first person in to work and the last to go home. When other people have stopped working and are long gone, you are hunkering down and putting in extra hours because this is how you achieve real success. This schedule might work well in the beginning but you can only drive in the express lane for so long before the wheels come off.
That “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” lifestyle can lead to “sunset fatigue”, a condition where you have given so much of yourself during the workday that there is nothing left when you get home for your family. I remember one specific time where my head was so full of the workday and I didn’t realize my young daughter was speaking to me about something important to her until she grabbed my face in her little hands and turned it to me and said, “Mommy, are you listening?” Maybe you are there physically, but not mentally as your head is still swirling from the events of your workday.
With all the responsibilities we have as leaders in our business, we need to realize that they are not going away. They’ll be there tomorrow. How can we better manage them and improve the time we are spending working? How can we increase our focus so that we can actually work less and achieve more?
Over the years I have found three strategies that work well for igniting our focus superpower.
1. Narrow your focus. Don’t try to do everything. Realize that you will have the highest energy and will be most productive when you narrow your focus to those projects that you love.
Think of focus as being interested and absorbed in something with ease. As an example, when you are watching a good movie that you are interested in you don’t “think” about having to focus on it. It just happens.
Think of a time when you were working on something that just flowed for you. Remember how time flew? You were highly energized by it. What activities do you do where the time just flies by like that? The goal in all of this is to increase the number of these type of activities and decrease those activities that are the opposite.
2. Carve out untouchable time. You need to intentionally carve out time that is untouchable. This is easy to say, and even quite easy to schedule, but very hard to do.
I call these power blocks, and typically these for me are one to two-hour appointments with myself. I also schedule power days where I commit to the full day without distractions.
What does this look like?
It is simply an appointment on my calendar with myself to work on a particular project or assignment. I free myself of distractions so I can have sustainable focus.
Set your power blocks at times you know you will have your best energy. For most of us, this is first thing in the morning. Instead of diving into email in the morning which for most of us should not be an important priority, use this time instead when you are freshest to work on your most important work. It is amazing how productive you can be and the big things you can cross off your list when you put them first.
3. Prepare for your power time. You need to prepare for your power blocks and be ready to fight for them.
Here are some tips to prepare you for your power blocks and help you get the most out of them:
• Get support: Let everyone know, including your closest work colleagues and family members, that you will be off the grid for a while.
• Go to a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted.
• Put away personal distractions such as your cellphone and an open email box.
When you get your “superpower” of focus right, you are free from distraction and free to be your best. Use your superpower of focus, and you will achieve a work flow that is highly energizing, fun, and very productive. You will shave hours off your workweek and you will achieve more.
Janelle Bruland is an entrepreneur, author, speaker, and coach. She is founder and chief executive of Management Services Northwest, a janitorial, landscaping and maintenance company she started in her living room in 1995. Bruland is also the co-founder of Legacy Leader, a leadership development company. She is the author of The Success Lie: 5 Simple Truths to Overcome Overwhelm and Achieve Peace of Mind.