Elegance: Focus

by Ron Potter

We’re working through the Elegance section of a TREC.  TREC stands for Truth, Respect, Elegance, and Commitment.  These are the four elements that make up great teams.

Elegance consists of Simplicity (our last blog post) Focus and Role Clarification.  This blog post will explore Focus.

Focus

Lack of Focus is another issue that keeps teams from becoming Elegant in their approach.

I’m a baby boomer.   The Beatles didn’t come on the scene until I was in my teens.  I started a microcomputer software company when Microsoft was still in Albuquerque, NM before moving it to Seattle.  I owned one of the first Blackberry’s on the market.

I’m not sharing all of this just to demonstrate that I’m old, I’m setting the stage by saying that I’ve seen a lot of changes in my life and career.  But what I have not seen through those many years of changes is a population so distracted as I see today.  I watched a person walk straight into a lamp pole while being distracted on their phone.  When I’m on the highway I can immediately notice a driver several cars ahead of me when they turn their attention to their phone rather than the road and traffic.  We are losing our focus people.  Even scarier, we’re losing our ability to focus.

One of the more profound books I’ve read over the last several years is Deep Work, Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport.  Cal gives us research, reason, and ideas on how to regain some of this lost focus.  It’s well worth the read.

Over my 30 years of consulting work, the people who I would put in the category of best leaders all had an ability to focus.  In fact, one common trait that began to emerge over the years was their experience and belief that they could only hold the proper focus if they kept their list of key issues to three or less.  Their time frames might change, usually from quarterly to yearly but the numbers was always three.  If they begin to feel distracted from those three, even if it was for very good and legitimate reasons, they would start to hand-off the responsibility to others so they could get back to their three priorities.  This was also a good way to grow others in the process.

Have you begun to look at what distracts you from your primary three goals?  Our technology is geared to distract us or at least to attract our attention at a moments notice.

  • Have you turned off the notifications on your phone?
  • Have you set aside a period of time each day for no email or texts?
  • Even more powerful, have you established an hour a day, a day per week, a few days per month when you eliminate all of the distractions to get into some deep work?

Just like Einstein’s quote on simplicity, it takes courage.  But without the courage you’ll never grow, progress, reach your goals, stay focused, become an elegant performer.  Another definition of elegance is:

Pleasingly graceful in appearance or manner.”

Are you and your team pleasingly graceful in your manner?  Maybe you need to work on your simplicity and focus!

Stress

One final thought on focus before we leave.  If you’ve fallen into the trap of being constantly distracted by your technology or connected 24/7, you will be experiencing stress in your life that is unnecessary!  If you’re experiencing constant stress that you don’t seem to be able to escape, read Cal Newport‘s book, Deep Work. Just the act of focusing on a book for a while will help relieve some of the stress and you’ll find good lessons for returning to a more satisfying and less stressful approach to live and work.  Focus!

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