In our previous article, Save Your Best for the Things that Matter Most, we talked briefly about the pressures of being a coach and how you might have to wrestle with yourself to find focused time away from work to spend with those important to you.
That touched on a complex truth, that…
Our culture pressures us to do it all and do it all well, but it turns out not everything we do contributes equally to our success. The famous management consultant Joseph M. Juran* summed up this idea in the Pareto principle (which you may recognize as the 80-20 Rule or the Law of the Vital Few), which states that...
Work is no exception. The majority of the results we seek actually arise from a minority of our efforts. That means that 80% of what we do doesn’t really lead to the results we are seeking.
This concept suggests that, rather than working more hours, we should be more selective about how we spend our time and maintain brutal focus on the things that give us the most impact toward our goals. In other words, trying to do it all not only puts us at risk for burnout but actually dilutes our effectiveness, lowering our performance.
Test this for yourself: Think of what makes up your normal day. How much of it is really working towards the priorities of your program? How much of it is minutiae: putting out small ‘fires’, responding to emails, etc.?
Focus is intentional, not reactionary. So, if you are ready to start leveraging focus to increase your impact, schedule some uninterrupted time to consider what you want to achieve and how best to achieve it. Setting aside time up front may seem difficult at first, but it will ultimately drive more progress with less wasted effort. 30 minutes to 1 hour is my recommendation. Shut your door, silence your phone, and take some time to get your brain ready to be a production machine!
I recommend taking these three steps to bring focus first to your goal and plan, and ultimately to your actions.
Simply put, what do you want to achieve? What accomplishment is sufficiently challenging that you will bring your best effort to the table, but not so far out of reach that you have little commitment to the goal? What end point deeply motivates you? Are there constraints on the time or methods that you will use to pursue your goal?
Answering these questions concretely is important: when your goal is measurable, you can judge your progress.
Even a focused goal will evolve over time, so think about a few different time frames:
This will help you build strategically toward your goals over time and think proactively on a larger scale.
Now think about what is most critical for reaching your goal. Start by remembering that not everything is equally important and that a focused plan includes just the most important things. Then consider the following questions:
Ponder these additional questions to reveal other areas of high impact:
As you think about the answers, the landscape of critical priorities will gradually become clear. Themes will likely emerge, representing good candidates for important areas of focus.
The power of a focused plan is only as strong as your consistency in execution. Once you have identified what you want to achieve and the most important ways to get there, it is critical for you to prioritize your time accordingly.
I recommend identifying three discrete areas of focus to prioritize. Then devote 80 percent of your working time to them. The remaining, less critical tasks and responsibilities should receive no more than 20 percent of your time.
You can do anything, but not everything -David Allen
Therefore, put these 3 priorities in your sight—on your computer, on your desk, etc. You should see them constantly throughout your day as a reminder of what you’re working toward and how you should be working toward them. Next week, join me as I close this Focus for Coaches series with an article on the benefits you can expect to receive from the diligent and focused type of goal setting you’ve just read about.
Read the last article in this Focus for Coaches series HERE.