Aim Higher: The leadership power of focus

The power of focus

I’m going to start by saying something I think you may find shocking:

Focus is easy.



“Wait a minute?” I hear you say. “What about all the distractions in my life? The smartphone, news, social media, the TV, friends texting me, all kinds of entertainment options, people wanting to get something from me on their time, not mine?”

Take a breath. I’m not denying that there are lots of distractions out there. What I’m saying is that they’re often not the root of our problems in this area.

So, what is?




When everything is a top priority

Years ago, I was working for a manager who gave me a list of ten tasks they needed me to work on. I asked for some help with prioritization. They replied, “These are all a top priority.”

I hope you’ll agree—that wasn’t a very helpful answer. Obviously, I would prioritize these items with respect to my other work. But I needed to know more! In what order should I work on these? Are there specific deadlines? Who else is working on them? What is your priority for these, boss?

Imagine how much more confident I would have felt had that manager given me the list and said, “Don’t work on number two until you finish number one, and so-on.” Immediately, my focus snaps into place on that first thing. I work on that one thing until it’s done and then move on.

When we think of focus, we usually think about what distracts us from it. What we fail to realize is that we’re often distracted because we haven’t clearly set our priorities.



Find that “main thing”

My expert guests on this week’s “Aim Higher” panel all have great ideas about how to create focus:

  • Say “no” to the things that distract
  • Pause when you’re overwhelmed and put some things aside
  • Find someone who’s good at “planning the plan” to help chart a more focused path

All these tools are much more applicable, though, when you know what your priorities are. As Stephen Covey famously said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

If you haven’t defined your “main thing”—or asked your boss for help doing so—it doesn’t matter how good you are at ignoring your social media accounts. You may find focus, but you’ll probably be focusing on the wrong things.


Listen to Aim Higher here.



If you’re a leader? Pay special attention here. Part of your job is clearly defining priorities for your team so that they can find focus and feel good about it.

I hope you’ll join us for what is, I think, a short, helpful boot-camp on this important topic.






Photo Credit: Chase Clark


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