When I was a kid, I loved nothing more than to a get a magnifying glass and burn stuff. I think my parents were concerned I was a budding arsonist. I loved taking my $4.99 magnifying glass outside and burning paper, plastic soldiers, and leaves. I even stuck my finger under the magnifying glass.
Trust me – it hurts and you don’t need to try it.
The magnifying glass is a great example of bringing focus. If you can remember back to your childhood, it took a little skill (angles and light) and time to get the glass focused on the right spot. Our ability to get things done is like the magnifying glass – it takes a little skill.
When I need to get things done, I have found improving my focus improves the outcome. When my focus is diluted, I get diluted results. There are three kinds of diluted focus we can find ourselves dealing with in our lives.
Here are the three traps:
Put avoidance at the top of the list and you can add my name right next to this trap. It is human nature to avoid doing something we think is going to be hard. We find other things to occupy our time and thoughts. We work on meaningless projects, we answer e-mails, we talk with co-workers, and we take care of personal business. By the end of the day, we tell ourselves we have been busy, but we have not accomplished anything of substance.
I have seen high performing people who are very capable of getting things done and are very smart, but who miss deadlines for projects because they allow other priorities to interfere with key goals. I appreciate the person who knows more about what not to do and can tell someone “no.” These focused people know and understand what the goal is and can prioritize what needs to be accomplished. They know the difference between the urgent and the important.
The mind is a powerful tool. What we spend time thinking about becomes our reality. Our mind begins to think about so many different things at once because we have information overload and we become distracted so easily. Our mind begins to wonder and we think about stuff that has no relation to what we are working towards accomplishing. How much focus and self-discipline we place on our thoughts eventually controls our outcomes.
There is that voice in your head telling you to take the easy way. It tells you to avoid the tough tasks and hard objectives. There are many competing priorities for your attention and focus that overcome the important with the urgent. Finally, there are thoughts chasing all the different ideas that pop into your mind.
Learning to focus can help you avoid skipping the “hard stuff.” Focus can help you keep your priorities aligned and can help your mind stay settled on the important things. The power of focus is a key discipline.
Quote of the week: “Fear is the enemy of curiosity.”