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How to sharpen your personal focus effectively

From Joël Krapf | 19.10.2017 | 0 Comments

We live in a multi-option society. We encounter new opportunities to pursue every day. But we can only be successful if we’re focused. This quick guide shows us how to sharpen our focus effectively and why it’s important.

The multi-option society isn’t a recent phenomenon. People have been writing about it for more than twenty years. However, digitization has reinforced this megatrend, with frequent new opportunities increasingly there to be seized.

Why it’s important to be focused

Despite, or precisely because of this multitude of options, it’s essential that we define a focus for our work. If we were to pursue everything that’s remotely interesting, we’d get bogged down. At work, it’s important that things get done and are effective. This requires focus.

People who are constantly under pressure and driven by their calendars are a familiar sight in office environments. But those who really want to make a difference should be leading rather than following. This requires focus.

It goes without saying that those who want to set up something new need the right skills. Acquiring the necessary subject-specific expertise usually requires a targeted, intensive effort. This requires focus.

We must then (be able to) put the expertise into practice. This is primarily possible at work when the expertise is known and recognized by colleagues and line managers. This requires focus.

One of the greatest motivators for work is meaningfulness. Those who can see some kind of meaning in their work and  identify with it are more motivated, enjoy their work more and are often more successful. This requires focus.

How to find your own focus

Being focused is not difficult just because we’re aware of its importance, but also because of the many stumbling blocks everyday life puts in our way. As a result, we often try to take care of everything rather than just the tasks we’d like to focus on. And this is by no means limited to the constant distractions from text messages, e-mails or status updates in social media. Even at work, there’s a high risk that we will try to juggle everything that we find exciting and interesting.

I’m a prime example for finding (too) many things exciting and interesting myself, so I’ve created my own personal focus triangle (see below). This triangle helps me focus on the things that are important for my work. Right in the center, I’ve put the topic which occupies my time and motivates me the most: digital transformation. This “driver” is my North star which is intended to guide my activities.

In addition, I’ve written down three sub-topics I’m (temporarily) focusing on to make tangible progress on my main topic of “digital transformation”: digital skills, agility/working environment 4.0 and change management.

Of course, this focus triangle is just a personal, individual example that cannot simply be adopted in any context. As a reference framework, it can assist you in creating your own main driver and the three sub-topics, helping you to find your own focus. 

Example of a focus triangle (own illustration)

Specific applications for the focus triangle

The focus triangle now gives us an initial point of reference for the topics that are important to us. But our focus will only be effective when the focus triangle is used as a basis for coordinating the contents of our work. 

Equally, the focus triangle is not designed to last forever. While the central “driver” in the middle should be a little more stable, the sub-topics related to it need to be designed more flexibly. This means that we need to constantly reflect on whether we’re still following the right topics in order to do our personal “driver” justice. At the same time, we also need to regularly check our main driver. That doesn’t have to be a big deal. Your morning commute, for instance, is a perfect time to question your own focus at regular intervals.

A great way to actively pursue your focus is “Working out loud” (see link for details). Kolb’s learning cycle is another useful tool that demonstrates how action and reflection can be used to constantly improve on a topic through learning by experience. 

To sum up

There are a growing number of options and we’re at risk of being overwhelmed by the sheer range of choices available. We need a focus to work effectively and efficiently whilst also enjoying our work because we identify with it. 

The focus triangle is a method that can help us find our own focus and actually pursue it. Now all we need to find is our personal “driver”. 

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