The Power of Focus

by Pete Ferguson

How many things do you do in a day? How many things are you good at? What percentage of your day is spent on things you are not particularly good at?

In an age where you could (and perhaps do) waste an entire day with a smart device twittering, facebooking, surfing, spamming, etc. the economies of wealth are shifting.

What will set you apart from the pack in the future will not be your current economic position – it will likely be your power to focus.

When you think about it, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Seth Godin, and that star from America’s Got Talent or American Idol or whomever your hero is all have something intimately in common with you – 168 hours in a week. How you split up those 168 hours and concentrate on achieving your goals is key to where you will be in five years, ten years, and recorded in history as a failure or success.

While traveling, I picked up the Career Section of a local newspaper and Chicago Tribune contributor Jen Weigel’s review of “The Power of Focus” by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Les Hewitt.

Weigel included many quotes by Hewitt, a performance coach and speaker.

Hewitt related, “I worked with a CEO of an IT company, and he said he spent only 5 percent of his work week doing what he did best, and he’s running the show!” Hewitt has the goal to help people focus at least 80% of their time on our their competency – what they each do best. Hewitt regularly asks people to make a list of every activity they do in an average work week. “The biggest list I received was 69 activities from a CEO in California. He was under so much stress he hadn’t had a holiday with his family for four years.”

The book review goes on to the authors’ four recommended areas of focus:

  1. Clarity: “Take a day off to think, write down your ideas and goals and get a system in place for your future.
  2. 4D Formula to Help Prioritize: Dump it, Delegate it, Defer it, or Do it.
  3. Relationships: “Build solid strategic relationships with people who can take your business to the next level.” Hewitt goes on to say that balance is key to happiness.
  4. Successful Habits: “My mentor always said to me, ‘Work harder on yourself than you do on your job and you will always create more value in the marketplace.’ So it’s not about the job you’re in, but the values you have and the attitude you bring to that job. Today people hire more on attitude and personality than on skills,” says Hewitt.

I would disagree with Hewitt on one point – it does matter what job you are in long term – if you are not pursuing your true passion in life, balance is difficult to achieve. In my own career, when I found I was spending only 10-15% of my work day doing something I was passionate about, I was also sabotaging my success. My built in safety mechanism was telling me constantly at a subconscious level that what I was doing was out of alignment to what I desired to do.

I am fortunate and was able to stay with the same company and department but shift my focus to where now I focus the majority of my time on people development and I feel a lot more grounded.

Certainly in life there are many things we need to do that we may not want to do – take out the garbage, load the dishwasher, file a TPS report (fill in the blank for your least favorite private or career tasks) – but when the undesirable list overtakes what we are born to do, discontent settles in and quietly undermines long-term success.

So what are you willing to abandon? What can you delegate? What do you just need to just do and be done with it?

Learn: Follow Hewitt’s advice and make a list of everything you do within a week. Examine the list and highlight the things you are good at.

Act: Make a plan on how to spend more time excelling at the things you are good at – and reduce or eliminate the time wasters.

Share: Use the five-foot rule – talk about your passion with your coworkers and boss. What you are passionate about, you will excel at. If those around you do not know what you really want, they can’t help you to achieve it.


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