Do you struggle to stay focused and on top of competing priorities?
Have you ever committed to a goal, worked toward it, then found yourself so sucked in by day to day issues that weeks pass and you haven’t advanced your most important agenda item?
I get it — and I have been there. As a working mom with two active kids and a busy household, I have seen targets set and missed, I’ve walked the noble path of “work/life balance”, fallen off, hauled myself back on, and lived to tell the tale.
At a recent 3-day retreat for The Incubator, a 12-month leadership development program I run for women entrepreneurs, one of my clients asked me to share details on how I “make it all work.”
Her question reminded me of the deep curiosity I often experience with respect to how other women in my circle manage their time and stay focused. I usually uncover some tidbit of insight around how to manage things better when I see the habits and practices of others.
So then, fierce ones, here are 5 of the most important practices I use to stay focused and on track.
1. Set yearly goals and review those goals 2-3 times per week.
My nightstand has two drawers. One contains the books I’m reading or about to read. (Currently working my way through Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. Mind. Blowing.)
The other drawer is my “Goals Drawer.” It contains my 12-month goals planner, which contains a full list of all the business and personal goals I wish to accomplish in the calendar year. These goals include intentions such as:
- A revenue goal
- A profit goal
- Key hires I want to make
- Taking 8 weeks of vacation
- The number of podcast downloads I want to surpass
- Key organizations I’d like to partner with
I take myself and my company through an extensive goal-setting process every December, I capture my goals in a workbook, and I gently read through those goals regularly through the year. (I’ve written about my goal setting process before — you can check that out here.)
The subconscious mind is POWERFUL. The simple act of reviewing my goals actually helps me achieve them, because it keeps me in full alignment. What’s more, reviewing my goals helps me to visualize them. Visualization is a powerful tool for boosting focus and performance.
On Sundays, I plan out the top 5 goals I want to accomplish for the week, and each day, I’ll identify the three most important things I need to accomplish the following day.
On average, I spend about 3 hours per week planning my time, setting goals and reviewing progress.
I have maintained a consistent meditation practice for 13 years, so I guess you could say it’s a way of life for me at this stage.
By consistent, I mean that I meditate for 15 minutes in the morning for 70% of the year. For me, meditation is a form of mental training; I’m practicing the art of presence, and this helps me channel a deeper level of focus and insight on an ongoing basis.
When I meditate, I experience a deeper connection to myself and to the world. I’m more confident and connected. To be honest with you, I’m not sure who I would be if I didn’t meditate regularly.
For many years, I mediated on my own, but last year a client recommended Headspace, and I have been using it ever since.
3. Build a Team.
It’s really, really hard to stay focused on the big picture and advance your long term goals when you are doing everything.
I can remember multiple mentors telling me early on that I’d never be able to grow if I didn’t build a team. I listened to them, but I didn’t truly hear them, because I was rather obsessed with my beliefs about why I wasn’t in a position to build a team at that point in time:
- I don’t need a team.
- I can’t afford it.
- It would be so much quicker if I take care of it.
- It will just take me a second.
- They won’t do it as well.
- I can hold myself accountable, I don’t need someone else to do that.
- If I’m as good/smart/talented as I think I am, I should be able to do it myself.
- Other people will slow me down/distract me.
Today, when I think about my former limiting beliefs around building a team, I’m like:
I have become much more focused and strategic and building a team has allowed me to do that. I have a work-related team but I also have a personal team who helps me stay focused and on track.
My personal team members include:
A housekeeper — she comes weekly.
A stylist — I work with her once per quarter because I love fashion but dislike shopping.
A personal trainer — we workout twice per week every week for 5 years
Various wellness practitioners
I also literally belong to two sports teams — I play soccer in the spring and summer, and basketball in the fall and winter. Playing sports is one way in which I make sure that I schedule pure fun in my life.
4. Reading and Learning.
I am most productive when my mind is open, curious and inspired. For this reason, I devote a lot of time, energy and resources to learning and reading.
One of the key skills I have had to master is to be open to learning, but not distracted by learning. In other words, it’s important to be to constantly expose myself to new ideas, insight and strategies. At the same time, I take a shrewd approach to how I implement these learnings into my ongoing routine and plans, so as not to get off track by each new tidbit of wisdom.
I aim to read about 50 books per year, and these books are generally a mix of business books, novels, and memoir. (The best book I’ve read in the last 12 months is probably this one, BTW.)
About once per quarter, I’ll invest in a self-study course related to a topic I’m curious about. In the last year, I have taken courses related to: money mindset, scaling Saas businesses, and intermittent fasting.
While I don’t watch the news, I do stay on top of world affairs. Each week I read The Economist cover to cover.
Each week, I spend about 8 hours on reading and study.
Do you know who Patrick Mouratoglou is?
He is coach to Serena Williams, i.e. The Greatest Of All Time.
How about Luke Walton?
He is the head coach of the L.A. Lakers, and is about to be coach to LeBron James, arguably the greatest basketball player in the NBA.
What about Bill Campbell — have you heard of him? He was a coach and mentor to Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google.
Serena Williams, LeBron James, Eric Schmidt. These are all super high achievers and they all have coaches.
I have found my coaches to be invaluable in helping me to stay focused and on track. For the last 5 years, I have generally not only worked with a coach, but have been a part of a mastermind community that has provided an additional layer of accountability and support.
The bottom line: focus doesn’t happen by itself, it requires structure. When I create the structures for focus to happen…it happens. Goal setting, meditation, team building, continuous learning and coaching are key structural elements I build to create focus, momentum and ultimately, results.
How about you? What are your top three strategies for maintaining focus? I’d love to hear your thoughts.