The Power of Focus to Increase Productivity

The secret of success is to focus on doing fewer things very well. The more I work with successful people, the more I realize they have certain things in common – they are selective about the projects they undertake, they continually evaluate how they use their time, and they don’t allow themselves to be distracted by anything that takes them away from their stated goals or makes them less than productive. They choose their goals and projects wisely, write them down, and stay focused on them.

Of all the issues that can sabotage your success, lack of focus is near the top of the list. Most people try to do too many things less than perfectly, and go in too many different directions at once, resulting in dissipated energy, loss of time and, sometimes, loss of money. The reality is this: you can’t do everything. It’s impossible. And, you can only really do one thing at a time.

The ’80:20 Rule’, also called the ‘Pareto Principle’, states that typically 80% of unfocussed effort generates only 20% of results. The remaining 80% of results are achieved with only 20% of the effort. You can make this principle work for you by spending time only on those few things that will bring you 80% of the results or outcomes you want.

Part of the problem is that we actually have too many choices available to us. So you have to figure out what will count the most. Decide what efforts will make the biggest difference, and then bring your attention in that direction. Yes, that means you’ll have to say no, and perhaps sacrifice some things that you’re currently doing.

The typical working person today is overcommitted in their time by at least 25%. If you’re currently feeling overwhelmed, challenge yourself to drop or delegate at least three items from your to-do list.

The good news is that getting focused is not an impossible dream. It does take conscious effort, strong decision making, and often willpower. Most of us can’t do more than three significant projects per day. So, I often ask my clients to choose their top three priorities for the day, every day, and start with their #1 priority.

Instead of responding freely to the things that show up every day, decide what really counts. And put your focus there. Say NO to everything else – including any unplanned or unscheduled diversions.

Remove the items from your to-do list that take you away from getting the results you want to achieve and have nothing to do with taking you where you really want to go. The things that sap your energy, waste your time, and clutter your desk.

Focus will enable you to complete projects well and on time with less energy, and give you the freedom to have some well deserved down time. Bring your effort, energy, time and creativity to those projects that really count. Focus on only the few things you are really interested in that will move you forward and truly make a difference, do them very, very well, and you can’t go wrong!

Take Action

In order to be really successful, you may have to have to whittle down and sharpen your focus so you can give more effort to fewer things. Here are some tips to get you started:

– List your most important projects. What are two or three things that will make a big difference for you if you bring your full attention to them over the next three months?

– This week, refocus your priorities and choose to bring your attention to your top three. List all your to-dos, and eliminate any items that detract you from your goals. Narrow your priorities to a much shorter list.

– Throughout your day and week, take short periods to reevaluate your priorities. Ask yourself: What’s the best use of my time right now?

– Start each day with your number one priority. This is one of the most powerful ways to focus your attention. Choose a project that hasn’t been moving along as quickly as you would like, and decide to make it your number one priority until it is completed.

– Look at where in your life you’re over committed. Resolve to either delegate or drop 25% of your commitments.

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