Focus and execution are two concepts that seem to be a bit difficult to master. There are many reasons that many of us have trouble getting our arms around one or both of these concepts. I want to share some thoughts and some ideas on how you might be able to discover some ways to increase your system for maintaining focus and improving on execution.
Paying Attention to What We Pay Attention To
What would your life be like if you were able to focus your
attention on three priorities for a week? What if you were
able to concentrate and focus on those activities, in spite
"In the final analysis, the quality of our life depends on
our ability to consciously choose who and what we give our
thoughts, interests moments and emotions to." - Author Sam
Horn, in Conzentrate: Get Focused and Pay Attention (2000).
Few people understand what concentration means, or how important
a role it plays in our lives. Life consists of what we pay
attention to. If we focus on meaningful, positive things,
we'll have a meaningful, positive life. If we focus on meaningless,
negative things, we'll have a meaningless, negative life.
This is simplistic and also enduringly profound: one of life's
"Our experience is what we attend to." - William James
If we chronically multi-task and engage in scattered thoughts,
we will have scattered, chaotic lives. Even if we aren't one
of those who have ADD (Attention-Deficit Disorder), the fast-paced
world we live in is very distracting. We are constantly bombarded
by information, e-mail
, phone calls and news. The ability to focus and to concentrate
on one thing at a time is a necessary strength we all need
"We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts."-
"This - the immediate, everyday, and present experience -
is it, the entire and ultimate point for the existence of
a universe." - Alan Watts
Concentration helps us focus on and in the moment, instead
of frantically rushing from moment to moment.
The Pareto Principle says that 80 percent of our results comes
from only 20 percent of our efforts. That means that only
about 20 percent of our activities actually provide the results
we are looking for.
This is true for business
as well as for social and family
activities. In that case, if we devote more time and energy
to the crucial 20 percent of our activities, we would accomplish
more, have better relationships, and more life satisfaction.
However, in order to do so, we would have to prioritize, focus
and concentrate. This means we would have to say "no" to the
people, places and things that are distractions from our goals
and real purpose in life.
Five Keys to Concentration
In today's distracting environments, it is not easy to stay
focused. Here are five essential keys to concentration and
focus, taken from Sam Horn's book ConZentrate: Get Focused
and Pay Attention--When Life Is Filled With Pressures, Distractions,
and Multiple Priorities (St. Martin's Press 2000):
Concentration is the ability to be single-minded. Focusing
on one task at a time is difficult because we all have so
many things to do. It means we have to temporarily ignore
some things in favor of others. Deferring other projects doesn't
mean they're not important, only less so for the moment. It
requires making choices as to priorities and scheduling.
Concentration is interest in action. Can you think of a time
when you were so engrossed in an activity that you became
one with it? All sense of time disappeared. All outside activities
were unnoticed. Athletes call this the zone. Others, a state
Concentration is mental obedience. It means harnessing our
thoughts, focusing on what is needed, and saying "no" to outside
distractions. At times, the mind can be unruly, like a rebellious
teenager. We must develop the ability to say to our mind "no,
not right now," and carry on. Realize that your mind probably
prefers play to work. However, you would not give candy to
your child each time he or she asked. You might try using
the Premack Principle, which involves doing something pleasurable
after a task is completed.
Concentration is staying power. The ability to persist in
spite of distraction, opposition, discouragement and counterinfluences
is the key to attaining what we want in life. That means coming
back after getting distracted. It also means completing an
activity even though it may not be perfect. It includes the
ability to keep on in spite of making mistakes. It is keeping
on keeping on, persisting, correcting, continuing and coming
Concentration is mindfully managing our TIME:
T = Thoughts
I = Interests
M = Moments
E = Emotions
Sam Horn, in ConZentrate, explains the usefulness of this
acronym in looking at time and what it means to us:
Time, when we think back over our life, is not really remembered
in days, months, years, but rather in moments. Specifically
those moments in which our thoughts, interests, and emotions
were fully engaged in a person, place or process.
If we reframe our concept of time, we can remove our compulsion
to race through life. Instead of thinking there's never enough
time, we realize we have all the time we're going to get.right
now. We come to understand the best way to make the most of
our time is to make the most of this moment.
The Power of Priority
Try the Power of 3 for one week. Identify three important
activities (making phone calls with clients, spending time
with your children, clearing off your desk) that would bring
you some quality results in your life. This is more difficult
than it appears, because everyone has more than three things
that need prioritizing. But only choose three. Then spend
80 percent of your efforts attending to these three priorities
for one week.
Yes, this means saying "no" to other people and activities.
However, at the end of the week, you will be amazed at the
results. You will discover that you can do much more than
you thought, if you focus and concentrate. For one thing,
since this exercise
is only for one week, you can give yourself
permission to say "no" to distractions. You discover that
not only is it easier than you imagined, but how much more
you are capable of doing. The following week, you can revise
your plan, pick three other priorities or expand on the same
ones and refocus.
Working with Your Coach
What are you paying attention to? What are your biggest distractions?
What if you were not distracted for a week? What three things
that, if you were to focus on them, would bring you quality
results this week? Try exploring with your coach and identify
the 20 percent of your efforts that bring you 80 percent of
Want a coach that will help you "Pay Attention"? Drop me a
e-mail me by clicking here . I would love to help you find
The highest compliment you can give us is to refer your
family and friends.
For the last twenty
years Jerry has been president of his own firm. He has spent his
career helping small business organizations grow and succeed. He
has a passion for success that he shares with his clients. His current
focus is providing executive and personal coaching to persons who
are interested in improving their effectiveness and their ability
to be successful. He is a facilitator for peer advisory groups with
The Alternative Board and is a Certified One Page Plan Consultant.
Jerry has facilitated planning retreats and planning sessions for
Jerry’s experience includes serving as Vice-president of Marketing
for IGA staff office, Vice-president of membership for the National
Grocers Association, Sr. Vice-president of procurement for Shurfine
International and the Managing Director of The Zenon Hansen Foundation.
Jerry is an Eagle Scout. He lives in Chicago with his wife Terri.
Jerry spends his volunteer time as a coach and consultant for The
Executive Service Corps of Chicago, an organization committed to
help the non-profits in the community improve.
Pinney & Associates
102 East 32nd Street
e-mail me by clicking here