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Squirrel! The Classic Distraction (#12)

The Confident Leader

“I can’t focus!” He said. “Working from home is distracting. The dogs. Making meals. Cleaning dishes. Constant deliveries.” He continued with a hint of give-up in his voice.

“I lead 165 people for an important division of a forty-five-billion-dollar company. I’ve never had a problem focusing. What’s going on with me?” 

The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.
— Bruce Lee, actor

This Week’s Edition

As a result of the disruption brought on by the pandemic, otherwise focused leaders, by their own admission, are succumbing to distractions at an alarming rate. With science saying our attention span has dropped to 8 seconds, how does a leader stay focused?

Clarify Your Thinking

Pre-Covid, I was facilitating a leadership workshop for a CEO who wanted his executive team to be more resilient: to stay focused on top priorities and resist the urge to be so easily distracted. 

I offered a simple exercise. “Team, do you see that window? I would like you to look at the window.” Everyone followed the instructions with two types of response – some looked at the window and others looked through the window at the scenery outside. 

The exercise proved that each team member was able to focus. Yeah! But, the confusion was found in where to focus, at the window or through the window. 

Think about it this way. Why is it the case that devoting our attention to one thing is called “focus”, whereas focusing on another task is called “distraction”?

The reason is that as leaders, we generally know what we should be doing. These are the important things, our priorities. Knowing our priorities is what allows us to easily identify distractions, those things that draw our attention away from accomplishing what we want.

This is where leadership doubt invades our thinking, as our inner dialogue leans toward excuses:

• “I just can’t focus.”

• “This is an impossible task.”

• “I guess this just isn’t for me.”

Your mind is powerful. You control your mind. You have a choice in every situation. Choose to identify your Most Important Task (MIT). Make this your focus. Doggedly pursue your MIT with fervor until it is complete. Prove to yourself that you can indeed focus and simultaneously put aside other things competing for your attention. 

Energy follows focus and what you focus on tends to manifest. 

Download the Clarify Your Thinking Worksheet to get focused. 

post pandemic vision

Thoughts Lead to Actions

“I’ve never really had a problem focusing… until recently,” Jim confessed. “The sheer volume of things I am responsible for is too great. I get distracted by my long list of tasks only to end up wasting time,” Jim said as he described his new leadership role during a coaching session. “How do I stay focused?”

I shared with him that focus is a discipline. It can be trained. A few years ago, I embarked on a journey to focus on focus. I bought the Productivity Planner from Intelligent Change. The planner’s methodology involves a simple two-step approach.

1. Prioritize your daily tasks. Complete #1 before moving to #2, etc…

2. Estimate the time it takes to complete each task

As a result, I learned two valuable things. First, 20% of my work time was being robbed from me. Now, no one can rob my time without me allowing them to take it. In effect, I was wasting time on tasks that did not further my overall goals. 

Second, every task took me twice as long to complete than I originally estimated. No wonder I was not getting done what I wanted to get done in the time I wanted.

This new information highlighted the dangers of multi-tasking, constantly flipping from one task to the other only moving each forward an inch at a time. Instead, complete one task, then move to the next… revolutionary! 

It also educated me on the Planning Fallacy, the chronic tendency to underestimate the time to complete a task. Properly estimating the time to complete my tasks… revolutionary! 

Focus is a choice you make in your thinking. Equip yourself with the right activities to stay focused. Read about 10 Ways to Stay Focused.

What actions should you take to stay focused?

Boost Your Performance

Sometimes it’s easier to be undisciplined and wear the I-just-can’t-focus badge. But, perpetually failing to accomplish your goals will eventually wear you out. Choose to focus and stay focused. Watch your performance grow.

What’s Your Opinion?

Share with me your wisdom for staying focused.

Don’t let doubt count you out. Have a confident week!

robin pou, chief advisor and strategist

Robin Pou, Chief Advisor and Strategist

If this was helpful, feel free to share it with another leader who needs to defeat doubt and complete their confidence.

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What is “The Confident Leader”?

During the Covid-19 Pandemic, I began a video series called “Panic or Plan?” It was designed to equip leaders to navigate the doubt they experienced and to rise in the confidence they needed to lead during turbulent times. It took off. I then started this newsletter to equip leaders in the same fashion each week for the doubt that crashes across the bow of their leaderSHIP.

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