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Home > Blog > How to stay focused: 3 essential lessons

Wednesday 9th Oct 2019

How to stay focused: 3 essential lessons

How to stay focused: 3 essential lessons

We have an innate ability to be creative, to develop innovations, to push the boundaries beyond the limit of our imaginations. Still, the one single thing we will never be able to create more of is time. In this fast-paced world, how to stay focused at work, in life, on long term goals or even short term goals is your key to success. How to stay focused and motivated to achieve your hearts desires or just a simple daily task is the difference which makes the difference.

Time flies, but the great news is you’re in control.

Have you ever wondered why some individuals seem to float through life effortlessly, seemingly always having enough time to do the things they want to do while others do fall into the camp of lastminute.com?

How to stay focused

It usually comes down to one simple word ‘no’.

Steve Job’s favourite mantras at Apple was “Focus means saying NO!”.

Now, I’m not talking here about having a personality bypass and becoming completely self-centred, selfish and ignorant to the needs of others, or that ‘the computer says no’ becomes your default response.  No, what I’m talking about is having the confidence to say ‘NO’ because saying ‘no’ is the right thing to say.

How to stay focused: 3 essential lessons

Let’s look at Steve Job’s quote for a moment as hidden in those four words are critical lessons which you can apply to all facets of your life.

#1 Focus

There is a Russian proverb, which says “If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.” The meaning is simple: Focus on one thing to achieve success.

Inspirational leaders can galvanise their forces around one thing that makes the organisation run most successful. They can present one thing as the North Star. In doing so, they can head off at the pass the constant threat of direction changes that prevent many organisations from really achieving their highest levels of greatness. They have a laser beam focus on their one thing.

How to stay focused: 3 essential lessons

# 2 Saying NO

Have you ever been getting ready to go to a party and turned to your partner and said; “How on earth did we end up going to this party tonight, I don’t want to go. I wish we had said no.”

Or…said yes to a meeting which turns out to be a complete waste of time and walking out you say to yourself ‘I knew I should have said NO in the first place.’

Or…you’ve signed yourself up to the school PTA, or to organise the Christmas night out, or collect raffle prizes for your local village fete. Whatever it may be, you’ve said yes to something which deep down your heart just wasn’t in it.

In your desire to please others or to not feel like you’re missing out or with your best intentions, you have spread yourself too thinly and have become the local circus juggler spinning as many plates as you can. And some of them are on fire!

How to stay focused: 3 essential lessons

Unfortunately, we all say YES too often when we really should be saying NO.

It’s about saying NO to the unimportant things, so you can spend more time saying YES to the important things

Value your time and do not be sucked into things which do not need your attention (professionally) or you do not want to do (personally). NO is such a liberating, uplifting even rewarding word to master the use of and most importantly, use more often.

#3 Busy or productive?

I wish I had a pound for every time someone has said to me; ‘Yes, but Royston I am always busy!”

And while I get it, honestly, I do. We all have so many attention grabbers, both personally and professionally, competing for our time. Still, the challenge with ‘I am always busy’,  is that if you run that programme for long enough, it will become self-fulfilling.

My response to this is always “I get it, but busy doing what?”

How to stay focused: 3 essential lessons

In my experience, it is easy to be busy, we can all make ourselves busy.

Don’t focus on being busy; focus on being productive.

Being productive you have to prioritise, continually reassess what is worthy of your time and yes learn to say no to the unimportant things.

Are you busy being busy or busy being productive?

Time is a precious commodity

We waste so much time professionally and personally getting sucked into activities which are a drain on our time and add little value in delivering our BIG picture goals, whatever they might be.

What activities, projects, initiatives are going to make the difference in helping you achieve and deliver your goals this year and beyond?

Instead of several projects running simultaneously, which ones can you need to say ‘NO’ to? Which ones can be put on the back burner, re-prioritised or delegated?

Do you need to attend that internal meeting, dial into that conference call or travel a 3-hour return trip to see a customer? Your customer might be more than happy to have a 30-minute zoom session if you ask them the question. They probably will thank you for giving them time back!

Where are you spreading yourself too thinly?

Have you committed to one too many social events or taken on too much responsibility to help get a new community initiative off the ground?

Is your hobby starting to resemble a day job?

How to stay focused sometimes means saying ‘NO.’

How to stay focused: 3 essential lessons

Focus your time, effort and resources, whether personally or professionally, into activities which you enjoy, which re-charge and which energise your spirit. These are the activities which will make the difference in achieving your goals.

And if you say ‘Yes but Royston, the things I’ve said yes to are the things I love doing. I don’t want to say no’. Well, if you can spin the plates without dropping one and you’re happy, then it’s not for me to say otherwise. On the hand, this might be a simple case of recognising you’re not Superman or Superwoman.

How to stay focused sometimes means saying ‘NO’ and this is perhaps one of the most important gifts you can give yourself.

Time is a precious gift. Here are other posts to help you maximise your time

Overwhelmed? How to focus on controlling the controllable

A-Z of Business Growth Video Series: Y = You

A-Z of Business Growth Video Series: J = Juggling

7 tips on how to halve the number of meetings you have and halve the time they take

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