Focus: The 1st Critical Ingredient to a Great Week, Month, or Year

These 5 techniques for developing a winning focus will set you up for success.


Have you ever considered our air traffic control system or the scope of their focus? It is an unbelievably complex system responsible for the safety of hundreds of thousands of people every day! To make it work, thousands of controllers are operating across the country, and each one has a single point of focus.

The ground controller manages all planes currently on the ground. The local controller watches the sky just above the airport and maintains safe distances between planes as they take off and land. As soon as a plane leaves the ground, it becomes the responsibility of the departure controller. On and on until a new local controller takes over and gets the plane safely on the ground.

What if a controller was focused on helping a plane safely approach an airport while helping another safely take off and another fly safely over the airspace? Disaster! But that’s exactly how we try to live our lives.

Focus Yourself

Why is focus so important in life? Why do winners use the term so often? Because it’s the only way to accomplish anything important or complex—and most winning is both.

Focus is the only way to achieve the things we really want.

The reason most people don’t achieve their goals is because they simply lose focus somewhere along the way. A challenge, an obstacle, another opportunity comes along and distracts them—and then disaster strikes.

Here are five strategies to keep that from happening to you:

1. Start with What You Really Want

Real focus begins with inspiration and motivation. You are ten times more likely to get something done when it’s something you want to do instead of something you are being forced to do.

This focus also helps you to lock in on what is important because as Forbes Council Member Sally McGhee states, “You can’t get it all done; focus on what matters.” She continues to state that you need to have a clear understanding of what your goals and objectives are. Constantly seeing these goals will remind you of the bigger picture.

Focus on ideas.

Everybody hears this but they don’t understand it. Let me give you one big reason why you must take the time to think, decide, and lock in on something that really excites you.

It’s because nothing is enjoyable when you’re mediocre at it.

If you’re mediocre at playing piano, you’re not going to enjoy it. If you’re terrible at singing, like I am, you’re not going to enjoy singing. Being average or below average is certainly not going to fulfill any part of your psyche. No one wants to be average, but so many of us are. And the secret is that to be great, you have to do the extras.

The secret is that to be great, you have to do the extras. Click To Tweet

When you love something . . . when you’re infatuated with it . . . when it’s the thing you really want to do now or to happen now more than anything else, your conscious and subconscious minds are fully engaged—all of your talents, abilities, and brain cells are switched on. You’re inspired, you’re curious, you’re energized. And without even thinking about it, you do all the extras. And you wind up putting so much extra energy in that so many others don’t—you’re just unaware of it.

You end up doing so much work that people didn’t force you to do, but you’re doing it because this is the most fascinating thing in the world to you at this moment. You’re not working on something, you’re chasing it. And you’re looking for every little advantage, every little answer, and you wouldn’t do that if it was not the thing that most excites you at this moment of your life.

As a result, you achieve more and you get more satisfaction, and this keeps you motivated and continuing to move forward to bigger success. None of this is going to happen unless you find the thing that really gets you excited or that you really want right now. We can only be great doing the things we really want to do.

We can only be great doing the things we really want to do. Click To Tweet

Begin with some big-picture goal setting based on your unique curiosity and passion. You hear people talk about big dreams and visions. This is what they’re talking about. What does your future look like? What is it that gets you excited? How do you finish this thought: “Wouldn’t it be great if . . .” Whatever it is that you are moving toward should make you want to run, not walk.

2. Assess Where You Are Right Now

You know what you want. Now ask yourself, how far away am I from it? What’s keeping me from it? Your abilities, your knowledge, your experience, your resources, your career position, your life situation—make sure all of these things are working to get you where you want to be.

Focus on the good ideas.

Make an honest assessment so that you know where to focus your limited time, energy, and resources. Then ask, what are some of the big milestones between where I am and where I want to be?

Be honest, recognize reality. The alternative is to live in denial, and that never turns out well. If you’re further away from where you want to be than you expected, don’t get depressed. All you’ve got to do is get moving, and every step you take gets you closer to where you want to be.

3. Set Immediate, Achievable Activity Goals

Read this post on the importance of tracking activity in the short-term to stay on track.

Every project and every goal has a variety of things that have to be done to make it happen.

Some are big things. Some are little things. Some stages will take a major effort. Some things will take a little effort. Some things you won’t mind doing. Some aspects will be very annoying, but you have to do them anyway to get where you want to go.

You’ve heard this before . . . how do you eat an elephant? The answer is one bite at a time.

When a coach calls time-out in a basketball game and their team is behind by 15, 20, 30 points, the coach always tells them to not try to get it all back at once. You can’t run down the floor and score all 20 points in one trip. Just run down, score, come back, play good defense, get the ball back, and go do it again. You’ve got to come back one step at a time. 

4. Kick Out the Clutter

Every new goal requires room in your life.

Don’t wait for spare time, you’re never going to have spare time. There’s a principle in life that every job expands to the amount of time you allow for it to be done. If you allow yourself 10 minutes, you’ll get it done in 10 minutes. If you allow an hour, it will take an hour. If you allow yourself all day, somehow it will expand into an all-day project.

Focus on and balance your time.

If you have something new you want to do, you have to create time for it, and the best way to start is to take a look at your schedule on the things you’ve got to keep doing and then minimize the time you spend on the rest or eliminate them entirely. Because there’s only ever going to be 24 hours in the day—that’s our budget.

We all have a time budget—24 precious hours a day for us to use. So look at your time as your money, because that’s how you’re going to make your money.

Money is valuable but time is precious. You might be able to make unlimited amounts of money, but you’ll never have more time. So kick out the clutter so you have time to spend on the things that are important.

Look for ways to simplify your plans, your projects, your life every day. Focus requires self-management—daily choices about how we spend our time and energy. Learn to say no. This Forbes article by Amy Blaschka elaborates on the importance of saying no—and gives some insight on how to do it. She states how saying “no” can allow you to treat your time like the valuable and precious commodity it is, and to trim the fat out of your schedule.

Stop dumping resources on time and energy wasters. Do a little every day!

5. Find the Support Every Winner Needs

When we get distracted, we don’t always realize it. We’re too close. We might feel the tension (because we’re being pulled in too many directions or we aren’t making progress), but we can’t put our finger on the problem.

That’s when you need somebody in your life—a mentor, a spouse, a friend, a professional group—to shake you and tell you to stop wasting time on things that aren’t as important.

People focusing to create a strongman formation.

Don’t be an idiot! Don’t be the person who’s constantly overwhelmed and depressed because they try to do everything themselves. Of course, you can stretch yourself from time to time and take on some extra responsibilities—but over the long haul, you’ll fall apart if you overcommit.

The surefire formula for failure is trying to be all things to all people all of the time. Plus, nobody is great at everything. Focus on the things you’re best at and get the most help as possible in the areas you’re weak in or aren’t as valuable for you to be spending your time on.

You might be really handy at raking leaves out of the yard, but you’re never going to get to the top spending all of your time out there. Spend your time on the things that will allow you to get ahead and add as much quality and value to your life as possible.

When you improve your focus, you give yourself the best chance to create the day, week, month, year, or life you want, starting now.

You can also use my SlideShare Presentation on Focus to share the ideas with your team or to give yourself reminders of key points.

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