Focus On the Activities That Make an Impact

As you drive along the road, if you look toward something it’s a natural tendency to steer towards it. Part of good driving is redirecting your focus to the car, your hand position, lane position, etc. As we pursue our goals (our driving destination), what we focus on along the way matters in order to stay on the road to avoid disaster as well as guiding us to our destination.

I would even like to suggest that our focus matters more than our goals. If you have a stated goal but don’t give it focus, you could end up on a side road, in the ditch or going the wrong direction. However, when the two are aligned you probably can’t even tell the difference, both your focus and goals are interconnected.

You don’t get results by focusing on results. You get results by focusing on the actions that produce results.

~Mike Hawkins

Focus is defined as a point of concentration; directed attention. So how do we get our focus (our attention and our concentration) pointed on what matters most so that we can make a difference in the world?

Focus decides what’s in and what’s out

Big goals that inspire us can also lead to a list of actions that are so long and diverse it can make that goal feel overwhelming. We were going through our budget process during the 2008-9 recession and the mantra on our team was “How can we do more with less?”. One of our wise team members paused and asked, “What about doing less with less?” Focusing on what has the most impact with low effort can sharpen your focus on what matters most. 

Focus recognizes when seasons shift

Did you know seasons change? Spring has sprung in the midwest, the receding pandemic has created more opportunities to get out and about. A year ago we faced a very different spring season as everything began to shut down due to a spreading pandemic. We can get so focused on the end game, that we might not notice that things have shifted. We also need to focus on the road we are on so we don’t get lost or derailed from our destination. 

Focus weighs in on the trade-offs. 

Time is a limited commodity. We can only do so much. How do we know what is important? What makes it important? How do we know if it is worthy of our focus? Knowing the destination we are headed to is essential and we need a roadmap to get there. Looking around at the environment, knowing what our values are, seeing what is most likely to get us where we are going helps us see the trade-offs. If we choose to focus on one thing it means that something else is going to fall off our radar, at least for now. And, that’s ok. We can make that intentional and give ourselves permission to let some things go so we can focus on the next right thing. 

When we keep our focus on the actions and priorities that will get us where we are going, we are far more likely to get there! It’s all about getting our goal and our focus aligned. This is part of the “secret sauce” that helps us be more productive and allows our actions to be more impactful.

“Clarity about what matters provides clarity about what does not.”

~ Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Next Steps:

  1. Write down one of your stated goals . . . something you are working on for 2021.
  2. Look at your calendar for last week. 
    • What low effort activities are having a high impact on your goal?
    • If you focus on more high impact activities, what do you need to let go of?
  3. Pick one thing that you want to focus more on in service of your goal in the coming week. Add it to your calendar for next week.
  4. At the end of the week, repeat 1 – 3. 

As you continue to evaluate your focus and align it with your goals, notice those things that are having high impact with low effort and celebrate that!! 

For a little more on The Myth of A Balanced Life and how focus is a better pursuit that work/life balance check out our latest episode on the Side by Side Podcast. Any ideas on what has worked for you to engage more intentional focus in your life and leadership? Comment below or send me an email. I’d love to hear from you.

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Annie Perdue Olson

Annie is founder of Leading Better Together, guiding leaders through the relationship and people challenges that sidetrack ministry. With 20+ years of experience in nonprofit management and pastoral ministry she equips people and teams to work better together. She holds a Master of Arts in Human Resources and Change Leadership from St. Thomas University and received her coaching certification from the Center for Coaching Excellence.

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