“Too many of us never realize our greatness because we get sidetracked by secondary activity” – Og Mandino
Law #10 – The power of focus
Do you think we are talking about what I like to call The “Oh, look a squirrel” Syndrome? Yes, and no. Yes, we are referring to distractions, but not the fleeting kind. T.J. Hoisington elaborates on several points in Chapter 11 of “If You Think You Can” related to this topic. If I had to break them down, it would be into these three categories: Over-planning, Concentration, and Single-tasking.
1- Over-planning: Getting caught up in doing everything possible to get ready to start, and then finding more to do, just to make sure you are ready, then going that extra mile on minutia so nothing is left to chance, then double-checking that everything works, then…, then…, and then… When are you actually going to run the race? Use the K.I.S.S. principle and get started already! You can always auto-correct as you go. As the quote goes: “If The Plan Doesn’t Work, Change The Plan, But Never Change The Goal.”
2- Concentration: Concentration is the power of focus. Knowing your goal is one thing, concentrating your efforts on achieving that goal is another. Much like over-planning, one can spend an enormous amount of time on unproductive efforts. Imagine your goal is to paint your whole house, so your paint one wall, then sit and watch the paint dry, then give it a second coat, then watch the paint dry, then, do the touch-ups, then watch the paint dry. Sure, you are focused on the task at hand, but your wife might kill you before you get to the second wall, if you concentrate your efforts on only one wall at a time. How about another example? You are writing an article. Do you do your research while your are writing and risk loosing your train of thought? Ladies, this might only be with us guys… see #3. Or, do you choose to concentrate efforts on research first with some note taking, then some organizing thoughts, then get down to writing? The answer and the point here is that it is usually far more productive to concentrate your energy on one task at a time. Oh, my college professors would be so proud I finally got this!
3- Single-Tasking: Sure, we all know the term multi-tasking, but did you know that this is actually a myth. No one can multi-task, not even you, ladies. What we can do to differing ability levels, and yes, it is proven scientifically that the ladies do it much better than us hockey puck heads, is rapidly switching from task to task, and back again, while being able to continue where we left off. According to a recent article by Nancy K. Napier in Psychology today “Much recent neuroscience research tells us that the brain doesn’t really do tasks simultaneously, as we thought (hoped) it might. In fact, we just switch tasks quickly… That start/stop/start process is rough on us: rather than saving time, it costs time (even very small micro seconds), it’s less efficient, we make more mistakes, and over time it can be energy sapping.”
Google multitasking and you will find lots of proof that we can’t do it, you will even find warnings against it. Don’t panic, it won’t show up on CNN’s Situation Room. However, the evidence suggest that we perform at exceedingly higher levels when we focus on one thing at a time.
This is further evidence of the advice we find in countless books on goal setting and success… break down the goal into achievable portions. Ben Saunders teaches us in his in his Ted Talk: “To the South Pole and back” ; after all the planning and preparation was done, he still knew that to survive what had never been done before, he had to focus on taking one step, then another, then another. Remain concentrated on each step and ever mindful of the dangers in ever snow dune and glacier crevice, and keep to his game plan of observe, step, observe, step, stop, rest, eat / drink, observe, step… We can accomplish anything we set our minds too, with a goal, a flexible plan, a growth mindset, concentration on one task at a time, and determination to get to the finish line.
What will you put the majority of your focus on today, to accomplish your biggest goal?