Plan to Focus

In a recent post, Big Rocks First, I mentioned Focus Days as something I put on the calendar well in advance of the day-to-day activities that cry out for my time. I’ve been asked to say more about Focus Days. What are they? Why are they important to me?

Let me start by asking, what are you really paid to do as a leader? I’m assuming you may have multiple answers to that question. However, if you’re a leader, I’m going to guess you’re paid to lead – that is why Focus Days are important to me – the prerequisite to leading well is to think well. Focus Days provide that opportunity.
A Focus Day simply stated is a time set aside to THINK. If we’re not careful, we’ll think on the fly. And, admittedly, for most things that is sufficient. We don’t need designated time to consider what we’ll wear to work or even how to do the routine parts of our job. However, there are bigger, more complex issues that demand our best thinking. I’ve found over the years that my best thinking is done when I can schedule it and allow enough time to go deep and wide on an issue.
The first time I ever heard anything like this was from Bobb Biehl. He kept a running list of what he called “Deep Thinking” items. Then he periodically scheduled time alone to consider these issues. It was a foreign concept to me at the time, but now that I’ve incorporated this into my routine, the value is immeasurable.
Here are four tips that help me make my Focus Days more productive – you’ll have to decide what works for you.
1. I don’t try to do my Focus Days at the office. There are too many distractions.
2. I try to schedule at least 4 hours in a single block of time – a full day if I can get it. Part of the value is the EXTENDED time to think about an issue.
3. I need a day like this at least once a month. I’ve found that my normal pace and level of activity is actually counterproductive over the long haul. If I don’t stop and think, I sub-optimize my leadership.
4. I keep a list of candidate items to focus on during these days. Just prior to the scheduled day, I review the items, select the one or two I’ll focus on and pull together the resources I’ll need.
A cautionary word is in order – if you try this, fight the temptation for it to be a day to catch up on email. Although there is value in being caught up on administrative items, that’s no substitute for focus on important issues. If you need an Administrative Day, schedule it – but don’t sacrifice your time to think deeply about important issues.[GLS_Shield]

Leave a comment



Doug Smith

8 years ago

This was excellent! Thanks for sharing! I rarely take time to really think things through because often, I’ll feel guilty because I think I should be doing something more “productive”. I started a folder called “Depp Thinking Items”, I’m going to schedule it!
Thanks for the post!
Doug Smith

mark

8 years ago

I understand the desire to be “productive.” What I’m learning is that when I am thinking, I add the most value. Therefore, I now refer to my thinking time as my productive time, the rest is just activity. Mark

Deepak Dhungel

8 years ago

This looks great approach. However, as we are working in an environment like open door or sharing space and cabin, access to extension of land line phones, email / internet and all time on cell phone, hide out for the focussed review, critical thinking seems difficult. It is also true that the routine and administrative tasks wait us whether we act right now or later. I will try these tips & hope to develop regular habit of doing things as suggested and thank you very much for simple but tough way of doing things.

Belinda Young

8 years ago

Burn out at work and in marriages is at an epidemic stage for many. A Focus Day may help save both. Thanks!

mark

8 years ago

I agree Belinda. Thanks for taking time to comment!

Hsuan-hua Chang

7 years ago

“Focus days” sounds like a good practice.
The structure I put in my life is master-mind sessions.
I meet up with a good friend once a month for a couple of hours. The conversations always get me thinking deeper and seeing broader.

mark

7 years ago

Thanks for your comment. Good friends have played a significant role in my growth over the years too. Please let me know how I can serve you in the future. Mark

My great Wordpress blog | Just another WordPress site | Today’s Challenge: Leading From the Middle

6 years ago

[…] Devote time to think about the future. The present often traps leaders in the middle. If you’re not careful, you’ll not be leading anything. You’ll just be managing the present. Do you have time on your calendar to think? If not, that’s not good. Leaders who don’t think can easily get stuck. […]

Leading From The Middle: Guest Post by Mark Miller | Development and Leadership Coaching

6 years ago

[…] Devote time to think about the future. The present often traps leaders in the middle. If you’re not careful, you’ll not be leading anything. You’ll just be managing the present. Do you have time on your calendar to think? If not, that’s not good. Leaders who don’t think can easily get stuck. […]

Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved