Archives For focus



Every day
as a leader you have to cut through the fog and noise of the immediate to keep things focused on what matters most. There is no place where that challenge is more important than in managing the tasks and priorities swimming in your head.

Trust me, I understand. I am wired to see and want to accomplish the 17 things I think are important right now. And, when I achieve some modicum of success on those, my juices get flowing and I start thinking “carpe diem,” seize the momentum and bring up those 37 other things I have been ruminating on. Bad idea.

To that end, I offer this simple discipline: Identify the ONE THING. In every situation, every day, identify the one thing that matters most right now. And do that.

Of all the things on your “to do list,” ask yourself, “what is the one thing that will make the biggest difference today?” If your plans for the day collapse because of some unforeseen crisis, what is the one thing that is non-negotiable?

Do the same thing in planning your week and your month. Ask yourself, “what is the one thing I can or should do that will move the ball furthest down the field?”

For every appointment, identify the one thing that is most important for you to address, contribute, leave behind, celebrate, etc.?

For every meeting, what is the one thing you want every participant to walk away with?

For every presentation, what is the one message, insight, action point, principle, etc. that you are going to talk about?

It is simple. Simple to understand, but a courageously contrary discipline to execute. I dare you to try it. Instead of fixating on how to get more done, focus on the one thing that will bring strategic progress in this moment and do that thing.

TWO PROMISES
#1: Momentum. If you do this consistently I believe you will find that every day, every meeting, every communique will find these incremental steps add up to significant momentum. And, momentum is exciting.

#2: Impact. The depth of our impact is directly proportional to the narrowness of our focus. The broader your focus the more you dissipate impact. So, imagine that every conversation, every day, every week had greater impact. How good would that be?

What’s your one thing for today?

 

FYI. For a future post: “How to approach the one thing question for your life.”

It is December 30th and that means we are in the red-zone for the annual “get your life together” rhetoric calling for New Year’s resolutions to fuel personal growth. But, what do you do if you don’t buy into this annual opportunity for a fresh start? What if you would rather avoid another attempt at change and the potential disappointment that comes with it? What if you like things just the way they are?

If you’d rather avoid the risk of change, this is your lucky day!

I would like to let you in on a secret. It is the easiest way to avoid change with the least amount of effort. In fact, by simply mastering the well-timed use of two words, you can indefinitely avoid the unpleasant risk and hard work of change on a personal level or even thwart an initiative for change in any group you are part of.

The secret?  Learn to use these two magic words:  not yet.
Here’s how it works.

Imagine you have or let’s say you “know someone” who has a few pounds to lose. By simply saying, “I really need to lose some weight, it is really important, but not yet. I have this holiday to get through or that trip to take first.

Perhaps you need to get your financial house in order. If so, try this one: “I am working on a plan for how to do it, but with all the Christmas bills now is not the time, at least not yet.”

Or, maybe, you need to make a few changes at work or you are facing some other challenge that will require courageous change.  Look yourself (or anyone else that matters) in the eye. Affirm the need for change, but in sobering tones finish your sentence with, “but the timing just isn’t right. I’ll need to make the change soon, but not yet.”

The secret power of this little phrase is nowhere more transcendent than in a group setting, let’s say at your church. Picture the scene, some leader suggests changing a program or tradition you find personally meaningful all in the name of greater impact on other people in your community. Sure, maybe at some point in time it would be a good idea, but not yet.

Instead of suffering in silence, this is a perfect time to speak up and wax eloquently on why this proposal is a fantastic idea. But, before anyone can shout amen, continue right on and in the most sensitive manner point out to the group that considering all the current challenges at hand, now is not the time.  “It is clearly a great idea, but not yet!”  Pontificate that before diving into the disconcerting waters of change on something so important, it would be good to do more study, more preparation, more shoring up some of the core programs and practices that already need attention. Thank those that have offered the proposal. It is a good idea, but not yet.

Before you know it, by your skillful use of the non-taxing strategy of “not yet” you will have postponed change indefinitely. You will have avoided all risk. You will have been able to maintain status quo. What could be more comfortable?

I know that “they say” if something needs to be done, there is no time like the present. And, I know thatin the Bible James warns us about walking away without making any changes after looking in the mirror and seeing exactly what needs to be done. Even the book of Hebrews says, ‘today if you hear the Lord’s voice, do not harden your hearts…” But certainly all these people understand that now is not the time to seize the day and make those changes that have been nagging at you for some time.  They are good ideas, but not yet.

Unless of course change is actually needed.

I had a breakthrough I hadn’t sought. I recognized the linkage between annual, monthly, and weekly rhythms that are key to maintaining perspective and focus as a leader. Being a “P” and not a “J,” I think I’ll call it “the Pirates’ Code for Greater Leadership Focus.” If I wanted more grandiose phrasing, I might call it, “Keys to Strategic Life Management for a Leader.”

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Calling & Courage

Gary Mayes —  May 24, 2009 — 1 Comment

How big is the wake behind your “boat?” Do you cut through the waters of life without leaving a mark, or do the waves of your wake reverberate in people long after you are gone? The 5 “C’s” of Leadership Capacity are qualities that translate into the breadth and depth of a leader’s influence: aka. the wake behind “your boat.”

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When you are a child, you are typically oblivious to the dangers that surround you. When you are a teenager, you feel downright indestructible. As a young adult, it seems we are just too busy with a million irons in the fire to notice our own mortality. But somehow, as you get older you come to realize that life is fragile. This incredible bio-machine called the human body can be taken down in hundreds of ways.

Yet, when I recognize how fragile life is, I wake up to the fact that every day of life is a gift.

These days I find myself surrounded by people whom I love that are facing significant health battles. My Father-in-law is now under hospice care as his heart loses strength. My Uncle’s health has degenerated so he can no longer live on his own. My good friend and ministry partner with CRM recently discovered a cluster of tumors that will require extensive surgery. And, in less than a week, my son will have heart surgery to repair a condition that has had him on disability for six months.

My point in all this is not “woe-is-me.” Instead, it is champion the profound realization that at the core, our lives are truly fragile. We are miraculously fragile. And there is something about that fragile reality which makes today, which makes everyday, a sacred gift.

Unfortunately, I easily forget that day-to-day life is a gift. I get busy driving here, flying there, meeting with people, managing projects, working on some new scheme that is going to transform the world… and in the midst of it all I forget that I have no guarantees. I take my health, my strength, my life for granted.

So, today I want to say thank you to Jesse, Ken, Steve and Ryan. You are exceptional men whom God has used to shape my life. Today you remind me to hold my own life as a sacred trust. To take nothing for granted. To live boldly and with passionate focus.

In you I am reminded all over again that life is fragile, powerful, and mysterious. Today is a sacred trust to be held lightly and lived fully. It is a gift.

In a culture where habitual drivenness is the water we swim in, there is an invisible pull to say yes to more. However, impact is directly related to focus and focus is about doing fewer things not more. Impact is not the result of doing a lot more.

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