J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

How To Focus

How To Focus

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image“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.” — Bruce Lee

Here is one of my favorite quotes by Napoleon Hill on the power of focus:

“Until a man selects a definite purpose in life, he dissipates his energies and spreads his thoughts over so many subjects and in so many different directions that they lead not to power, but to indecision and weakness.  With the aid of a small reading glass, you can teach yourself a great lesson on the value of organized effort. Through the use of such a glass, you can focus the sun’s rays on a definite spot so strongly that they will burn a hole through a plank. Remove the glass (which represents the definite purpose), and the same rays of sun may shine on that same plank for a million years without burning it.”

The newest addition to the Agile Results knowledge base is a step-by-step article on How To Focus.   The goal of the knowledge base is to give you the best patterns and practices for personal effectiveness.  In How To Focus,  I share a combination of proven practices for improving your focus with skill.  Whether you are having a hard time directing your attention, staying on task, or focusing where it counts, this article will give you insight and action you can use and apply immediately to dramatically amplify your ability to focus. 

This is no ordinary article on focus.  It’s deep.   Here is the structure of the article at a glance:

  • Objectives
  • Overview
  • Summary of Steps
  • Step 1. Identify Your Objective.
  • Step 2. Identify Your Reward System.
  • Step 3. Set a Time Limit.
  • Step 4. Identify Your Approach.
  • Step 5. Dump Your Distractions
  • 3 Ways to Refocus
  • Common Scenarios and Solutions
  • Troubleshooting Your Focus
  • Additional Resources

One of my mentors, a seasoned manager at Microsoft, once told me that the difference that makes the difference – why some people succeed and others do not – is focus. Those that lack focus spread themselves too thin, or never finish what they start. They have a lot of dreams and ideas that they never spend enough time working on to make any progress. On the flip side, those with focus, know what they want to accomplish, and they apply concentrated effort, and see it through to completion. They also focus on less to achieve more.

The key to focus is to both reduce distractions, while increasing engagement.   The trick to improving engagement is to find your internal rewards, and to be more deliberate about what you choose to focus on … even while focusing (… in fact, especially while focusing!)  For example, you can focus on the task, or yourself.  You can focus on *what* you are doing, or you can focus on *why* you are doing it, or even *how* you are doing it.  You can focus on the *process* or you can focus on the *results.*   You can choose to focus on what’s behind you, or what’s in front of you.

If you want the power of focus on your side, check out How To Focus or share it with a friend.

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  • JD, thank you for this post. I often struggle with spreading my focus across disparate projects and with distractions. The words of your manager resonate with me. Recently I have tried to block out time on my schedule for very focused activities and it's really helped. I look forward to trying the other methodologies in your wiki article as well.

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