They say, “When the student is ready the teacher will arrive.”
“Three times this week the importance of priority and focus has been the topic of messages I’ve received. I think the teachers are trying to reach me…
Here’s what I heard and what I’m doing about it.
Lesson 1: Priority, by definition, cannot be plural.
In a podcast I was listening to (I believe it was Rory Vaden with Brand Builders Group), it was mentioned that the word priority was never meant to be plural.
According to Greg McKeown, the word ‘priority’ appeared first in the English language around 1400 A.D., and wasn’t used in plural until sometime in the 1900’s.
I did a little digging and found author Mark Milotich write in CLAXUS that “according to the Latin definition, there can only be one first thing—one priority.” Yet “Starting around 1940, time management experts accomplished the impossible—they turned the singular priority into multiple priorities.” He even shares a graph from GoogleBooks that shows how use of the word priorities really took off between 1970 and 1990.
Those were formative years for me. So, no surprise, I’ve used the word and concept of having priorities my whole life.
Now, I’m determined to cut it from my vocabulary and change the way I think - knowing my top priority each day, week, and month.
The power of priority and single tasking.
This one hit me twice. Both Gary Keller in The ONE Thing, (a terrific book) which I reread last week, and Tim Ferris in a LinkedIn post over the weekend, shared the importance and a process to set your top priority each day and dedicate your full focus to it for 2-3 hours. Typically, early in the day.
Not the first time I’ve heard this, but when I follow their advice, I make meaningful progress and feel great. I may still have many things left to do but feel energized by what I have accomplished.
When I don’t, I find myself at the end of the day, worn-out, looking back at my to-do list, wondering where the time went, and how I’m ever going to catch up.
I already have 2-3 hours blocked at the start of each day. I did this months ago.
The trick for me is to use it as I had intended. Not ignore it and work on something else. Just picking-up with things unfinished from the end of my previous day. Or plowing through my inbox or old notes to see what I might have missed.
Those activities are important too if I don’t want to miss commitments or fall behind. But I need to move the chains on my top priorities, daily, if I want to make meaningful progress and not “just keep up” or fall further behind.
Here’s the second part of this lesson.
Knowing and doing are two different things…
Perhaps that’s why messages on Priority and Focus are coming through in great numbers.
Now, I’ll decide the night before how those 2-3 hours will be spent. Perhaps even a week before, based on some of the systems I’m using to create helpful new content and solutions for my readers and clients.
Then wake up and do what I have planned. First.
There’s no question that focus is linked to progress and success.
It’s not like I don’t have more than enough things to focus on. I can’t remember the last time I had less than 10 important things to do. Right now.
But any time I’ve struggled or failed, I can track the cause back to insufficient focus. “If only I had paid more attention to this sooner”, goes swirling through my mind.
The trick is knowing what to focus on that will make the biggest difference, and then doing it.
Milotich writes that, “…the only decision we ever make is how we spend our time. So, the most important question to ask is: What’s your priority?”
Here’s a tip that will help.
Zoom out - Zoom in
Successful leadership requires priority, focus, and perspective.
You can’t get perspective looking through a soda straw. You have to zoom-out first to understand the big picture. How things have been. How they are now, and how they’re likely to go if you do or don’t take directed action.
Then, decide where to focus and zoom-in to do what it takes - this morning, this week, or this month.
Stay focused till you’re done or out of time. Then zoom out again to reorient your attention and resources and focus once more on what matters most.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
It’s a cycle. An ongoing debate and balancing act, for sure. For me, that balance has often favored perspective.
This time, I’m listening to the teachers and improving my focus.
I’ve seen and heard this advice many times before, applied it with success, and even taught it to others.
I know it works. Yet I often drift back to my old habits, surrounded by mounting priorities, (there’s that word again). Thinking I need to work on everything and task-switching my focus like a circus juggler.
No more... This time, the student is ready.
My Action Plan:
For the next 90 days, I plan to:
a. Heed the advice from these divine advisors;
b. Know my priority (I almost wrote priorities. 😉). My “ONE Thing”;
c. Dedicate “focus-time”, each day, week, and month, to getting it done. And,
d. Track my results each day and week compared with the progress I’ve made in the past with old habits.
Want to join me?
Let’s do this 90-day sprint together and see what we can improve.
I’ll report each week with an update of my hits or misses and progress I’ve made with my priority and focus.
I will be your accountability buddy. Just reply with “Let’s Focus!”, to let me know you’re in. Then drop me a line every week or two and let me know the same. I’ll share even more information to help you focus and succeed.
Together we can roll into the new year with momentum and a reliable way to achieve what matters most.
I look forward to hearing from you!
P.S. If today's insights are helping you to prioritize and focus, pay it forward. Share this post with others and become a guide for their journey too.
For more tips to make rapid progress and succeed as a leader check out my weekly Changing Lanes Newsletter.
Send your focus, thoughts, or questions to: email@example.com