The sun is a powerful source of light as well as energy. Every hour of every day the sun showers the earth with millions, if not billions, of kilowatts of energy. We can, however, actually tame the sun’s power. With sunglasses and sunscreen, the sun’s power is diffused, and we can be out in it with little or no negative effects.
A laser, by contrast, is a weak source of light and energy. A laser takes a few watts of energy and focuses them into a stream of light. This light, however, can cut through steel or perform microsurgery on our eyes. A laser light is a powerful tool when it is correctly focused.
Leaders cease to be powerful tools when they are out of focus and their energy is dispersed rather than targeted.
Rather than resembling a laser, too often we seem like the sun, just going up and down, splashing our energy anywhere and everywhere.
David Allen, one of the world’s most influential thinkers on personal productivity, argues that the challenge is not managing our time, but managing our focus. He believes that with all that is being thrown at leaders, they lose their ability to respond. However, he is quick to add that most leaders create the speed of it all because we allow all that stuff to enter into our lives.
What happens to our energy? Allen says,
If you allow too much dross to accumulate in your “10 acres”—in other words, if you allow too many things that represent undecided, untracked, unmanaged agreements with yourself and with others to gather in your personal space—that will start to weigh on you. It will dull your effectiveness.
Not only will your effectiveness be dulled but so will your power. Instead of being like a steel-cutting laser, you will be like the sun, putting out energy with no focus. There needs to be focus because life is not just about running faster or putting out more energy.
With so much going on around leaders, focus may seem impossible or improbable to achieve. Employees, phones, pagers, e-mail, cell phones, problems, crises, home, family, boards of directors, and other people or things demand so much. We tend to spend our time managing the tyranny of the urgent rather than concentrating our efforts on the relevant and important things that make or break an organization.
So what should we do? Is it possible to better focus your focus?