This post provides guidance on how to apply the "Focus your efforts" influence tool from the "Know What You Want" chapter of the book Student to CEO: 97 Ways To Influence Your Way To The Top In Banking & Finance (read more here), including specific steps, examples and templates. All content in this post has been created by me, using the title of this influence tool as a starting point only (the book provides anecdotes and context, not detailed how-to steps as outlined here).
Spend more time on doing things that directly support your goals and avoid spending time on anything that is a waste of time or that is useful but does not directly help you to achieve your outcomes. Pick specific things that you want to get done and spend time and energy on getting them done quickly and to a high level of quality.
The areas that we focus on will be a success. The more focused you are, the quicker you will achieve your goals in that area of focus and the better the outcome will be. You will achieve more and feel a greater sense of satisfaction on completing something well than you will if you make general progress across a number of areas. If you do not focus on anything, lots of things may move forwards but it will take longer to complete any one thing and the quality of each thing you do complete may suffer due to a lack of time and attention.
First you need to be really clear and specific about what you want to achieve. Then you need to work out what tasks you need to do to take you towards that outcome. Once you know what these tasks are, pick just one of them at a time and make sure that you get them done first, to the highest level of quality that you are capable of.
This does not mean that you should drop everything else. Everyone has lots of things going on in their lives at any one time so it is rarely possible to drop everything to focus on just one thing, and sometimes urgent tasks crop up that we must deal with immediately, regardless of whether we want to or not. Therefore, another key thing to do is to look at the tasks you are currently doing or planning to do and to prioritise them based on the extent to which they help you towards achieving your outcomes.
If you try to do too much at once, you will either fail to do some of your tasks or will get them done to a lower level of quality. For example, try brushing your teeth and brushing your hair and washing your hands at the same time. You can try, but it probably won't end well.
Also, even if you can do more than one thing at once, sometimes you need to do one thing before you can do another. For example, you wouldn't want to get dressed at the same time as having a shower – you'd have the shower first or you're going to end up with very wet clothes.
Applying this to something a bit more realistic, think about trying to build a cupboard whilst watching TV. I can guarantee that it will take you a lot longer to build it and you will most likely make a fair few more mistakes because you're distracted.
This principle of focusing on a particular thing to get it done applies to everything in your life and at work. Make sure that you focus on your priorities and you will get them done quicker and to a higher level of quality than if you split your time across activities.
- Make a list of all of the things that you are splitting your time on at the moment.
- Go through each thing and mark whether they are important and/or urgent.
- Answer the following questions:
- Do you really need to do it at all?
- Do you need to do it today?
- Can you leave it until next week?
- Are there any other things on this list that are dependent on you doing this first?
- Go through the list again and put the items in order of when you will do them (things that are important AND urgent AND need to be done today AND that other activities are dependent on take highest priority)
- Ensure that when you start working through the list, you focus on one thing at a time and don't split your time across multiple things at once.