“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” ~ Steve Jobs
We live in a world that demands us to squeeze a plethora of activities into our day. Without a plan to decide what is truly important, we can feel frustrated, overwhelmed, overworked, and inadequate. Our time is limited – everyone has the same 24 hours in a day – what we need isn’t more time it’s a laser focus on key priorities.
By choosing only the essential priorities and laser focusing on those, we create greater impact with less resources. A popular form of Japanese poetry, called haiku, demonstrates this point.
Haiku is a three-line poem that includes seventeen syllables in the order of five, seven and five syllables. Poets who create haiku must work within those limitations to convey their ideas. The best haiku is created with the careful selection of essential words or images.
Like the haiku poet, we each have a choice to make. You can crank out more and more work and get a whole lot done, but you mistake busyness for accomplishment. The alternative, is to choose to focus on the essential – those few “high impact” priorities that make a significant difference to your results. Then, manage the rest around those priorities.
High impact priorities include things that improve the company’s bottom line, strengthen the team, grow your career, and significantly improve the lives of others. I am sure you can think of other examples of high impact priorities as they relate to your business and personal life.
To ensure your time is laser focused on high impact priorities, apply these five strategies:
Identify your work motivators and stressors. Personality assessment tools, such as Everything DiSC, can help you articulate aspects of work that you find motivating and those aspects that might be more stressful for you. Once you understand what these are, you can set priorities and create a work plan that best supports your work preferences and minimizes your stressors.
Identify your three high impact priorities to work on over the next 6-12 months. Keep these priorities posted in a prominent place and review them daily. As author Jim Collins says, “If you have more than three priorities, you don’t have any.”
Set aside time each day to work on these priorities and complete one small action to move things forward. Do you need a half an hour, one hour, or more? Block the time in your calendar and preserve this time as you would an appointment or meeting. The work you do in action #1 will support you in identifying the best time to work on these.
Identify and eliminate distractions that are unrelated to your high-impact priorities or main responsibilities. Once you have identified these distractions, you can develop a strategy to eliminate them.
Manage non-priority tasks. For tasks requested of you that do not relate to your high-impact priorities ask yourself these questions:
- Is this task necessary? Can I dump it or just say NO!
- Who can I delegate this task to?
- Can this task be deferred to a future time?
- If I must do it, how much time should I give to it, and when will I do it?
- If it needs to be done, and is a routine task, can I automate it?
Adopt these five laser focused strategies and soon you will be producing high-impact results you can truly be proud of.