Be Focused, Kill Squirrels
By Deron Quon
This week I want to address focus. Some people have it, I on the other hand…oh look, a squirrel!
Yes, the squirrel joke and analogy about attention deficit disorder was often cited during our recent Entrepreneurs Organization’s (EO) Entrepreneurial Masters Program by my classmates and me. It was like serial entrepreneurs anonymous; many admitting their propensity for personal and professional distractions and for once I felt I was not alone.
Ironically, or not, I couldn’t quite focus on the content of this post, so I decided to make this an ode to squirrels…a mental mash-up of thoughts on improving focus.
1. Squirrel Hunting
Just like hunting with a rifle, you have to aim before eliminating the target. The first step is to identify and bring those squirrels keenly within your awareness. Are you aware of the time you spend on Facebook, playing games, or working on the next great business idea? If you can quantify the time great, but most often were not even aware of the time suck. So, sometimes it means being proactive and deleting games off your smartphone, unplugging that TV, or turning off email notifications. Professionally, it can mean the tough decision to kill a business idea, sell a business, or hire a new manager after being real about the true time commitment needed and potential return (or lack thereof).
Verne Harnish spoke about positive habits that accelerate you like a sail on a boat versus negative habits that act as anchors pulling you down. In his book, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, Harnish extols the benefits of practicing time and priority management to be exercised on a micro and macro level for you personally and your organization. The idea is to create a rhythm, starting with the daily huddle and extending to your one page plan and more, so everyone is aligned. Articulating this long term vision helps to keep you and your team focused on same goal every day, week, month, quarter, and year.
3. Narrow Your Focus to One Thing at a Time
A BusinessInsider Instant MBA post by Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, was about perfecting one thing before moving on to the next. He recounted when Steve Jobs addressed Yahoo on the behest of then CEO, Jerry Yang. “Jobs said that after he returned to Apple in 1994, he recognized there were far too many products and SKUs in development so he asked his team one simple question: If you could only do one thing, what would it be?” Weiner said, “[Steve Jobs] said that many of the answers rationalized the need to do more than one thing, or sought to substantiate bundling one priority with another. However, all he wanted to know was what “the one thing” was. As he explained it, if they got that one thing right, they could then move on the next thing, and the next thing after that, and so on. Turned out the answer to his question was the reinvention of the iMac. After that, it was the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad, and the rest, as they say, is history.”
4. The Power of Focus Requires Space
One of the first self-improvement books I read was the Power of Focus by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Les Hewitt. Some of the big take-aways for me was that to maintain focus, we need to make personal space for ourselves and connect with our loved ones. The book suggests taking time (they suggest one day a week) to spend time with no phone and no email to not work, just be and give space to think freely and creatively. Also, spend as much time with family and loved ones as possible (again suggest one day a week), at least a morning or evening. They also suggest naps, for those that can take 25 minutes mid-day, to recharge and help you re-focus.
5. Maybe What Your Are Doing Now IS the Squirrel…Follow Your Passion
I had the pleasure of speaking with fellow EO EMP classmate Govindh Jayaraman the other day about how he manages his businesses. He too is a serial entrepreneur with three businesses and counting. While I described my struggles with some of my businesses, Govindh correctly identified a lack of passion. He said, “Sometimes what we do now is the squirrel. It’s the big squirrel that got out of control and became a business, but its not aligned with who you are. But when you do find the right business [or job] it will feel authentic.” So do a gut check and see if a squirrel is looking back at you in the mirror…if so, time to kill it.