by Dr. Ginny Trierweiler, Leadership Coach
This post is one in a series on developing the discipline and habits of rock star leaders, and the first on building the habits of clarity, focus and productivity.
“…you cannot eat every tadpole and frog in the pond, but you can eat the biggest and ugliest one, and that will be enough, at least for the time being.” — Brian Tracy
As a leader, you want to achieve meaningful results and make the difference in the world that you were born to make. This requires leadership and organizational skills.
In particular, there are certain habits leaders need—the habits of Focus, Clarity and Productivity– in order to achieve the desired results:
- Focus—“choose what to bomb, in advance”
- Build your attention span, and fiercely protect it
- Chunk your work
- Spread the work around—delegate
- Find your hacks
In this post, we will address the question of FOCUS.
“Choose what to bomb, in advance,” as Jon Acuff puts it in his new book Finish. You can’t possibly do it all, so you must prioritize. What is most important for you to focus on? What needs to get done? Are you the one who needs to do it?
In these times, focus will not happen automatically and we can’t leave it up to chance.
What habits do you need in order to increase FOCUS?
You need to find ways to prioritize your work in order to increase focus.
This requires that you first get very clear what your goals are. What are your targets, your most important intended results?
Write your goals down in order to increase clarity and accountability to your goals. I keep a stack of varied color index cards for this purpose because they force me to write my goals in clear, to-the-point language. They’re also easy to keep in front of me—on my desk, in my notebook at meetings, etc. Any time, I get greater clarity about my goals, I update the cards.
Get clear about your priorities. What are the top priority goals that YOU need to work on? Do you have too many priorities? Too many priorities is the same as no priorities! Narrow your focus.
Check your task list against your priorities. Does your task list reflect your most important goals? How much of your task list is reactive versus proactive? What needs to change here?
Audit your time.
- Are you spending most of your time and effort working toward achieving your most important priority goals?
- Are there tasks that take a lot of your time, but really shouldn’t?
- What action can you take to rectify that?
- Do you need to say “no” more, in order to fully commit to your responsibilities?
When I worked as a nonprofit President & CEO, I developed a routine with my secretary that involved reviewing my priorities and task lists daily to ensure that I was focusing my energy where it needed to be. She was fully empowered to challenge me if, according to my priorities, I was “wasting time.” In addition to the daily strategies we had for managing my time for the organization’s highest good, whenever we felt it necessary, we would review my priorities and do a more thorough audit, adding up how much time I was spending on each key area and identifying all the other things taking my time. Being responsive to staff, clients and community members is important and must be allotted time; it just doesn’t work well for the executive leader to be continually reactive and to lack time for proactive planning and building for the future. So, whether you empower someone else to hold you accountable or you manage it all with yourself, develop a routine of auditing your time.
Focus and clarity habits are absolutely critical for leaders to develop in these times. What have you found to be most important in building and maintaining focus?