The more I talk to successful entrepreneurs the more I realize they have one thing in common: extreme focus. They don't just work hard, they work smart. (They actually work hard AND smart, but that's another post.)
As I talked with them, extreme focus seemed obvious. One of those insights where you go D'ouh why didn't I think of that sooner? Of course! Focused, concentrated efforts push entrepreneurs towards realizing their goals faster than diverse, broad efforts.
But how does one achieve this focus?
Extreme focus to me has always felt like a sacrifice. I have so many passions, focusing on just one seems like a waste of talent. (I'm always reminded of a Malcolm in the Middle episode where Malcolm looks to career testing to find the one thing he's good at only to discover he's good at everything. He, like me, have always thought those who excelled at just one thing were lucky. They didn't have to agonize over their choice. They didn't have to worry about choosing wrong. They could just do.)
Last year at Alt Summit Whitney English, who I had met the previous year and started following online, showed me her Day Designer. It was right after a session she co-led with Hilary Rushford of Dean Street Society on How to Avoid Becoming Overwhelmed. A light went on at the moment. Her strategic brand plan and Hilary's Moi Path from her book, The Four-Part Entrepreneurial Cocktail. It all made sense.
Extreme focus is a gift you give yourself.
I wish I could say I immediately narrowed my focus. But, it takes time to build a habit. Once I received my Day Designer (ordered right after talking with Whitney) in March (they were sold out and I had to wait for less-than-perfect inventory to come available), I began using it and taking it with me everywhere. And, I stopped floundering. I started making forward progress.
Focus is only possible when you know who you are and why you're doing what you're doing. And to connect with who you are and your why, and stay connected, you need to schedule time for reflection and goal evaluation.
5 Steps for Finding Focus and Setting Priorities
Here are five steps for finding your focus and setting priorities that will help you realize your goals:
- Choose yourself.
- Pick a passion from the one to two things you spend your free time on.
- Before you commit to a project, ask yourself why.
- Give yourself time and space for new ideas.
- Schedule time to chronicle and reflect on your journey.
Speaking at Alt Summit: What Do You Want to Be Known For?
Next week, I'll be leading a roundtable at Alt Summit (seriously pinch me!) on How to Create a Content Marketing Plan: Editorial Calendars and Social Media Schedules. While the focus is on content marketing (my audience is fellow creative entrepreneurs and writers), the process I'll be outlining can be used for building a business or managing one's career.
The first half hour of the one and a half hour roundtable covers "What Do You Want to Be Known For?"
In that section, we'll talk about finding your why and how your why forms the foundation for everything you do going forward. It may sound a little woo woo, but think of it like this: what you want to be known for is why your customers hire you, why your manager picks you for highly visible, strategic projects at work, and why your friends and family come to you for advice and help.
If you're coming to Alt Summit, I'd love to see you at one of my sessions: Thursday, January 22nd from 4:00pm to 5:30pm or Friday, January 23rd from 9:00am to 10:30am.
Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.